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Qatari voters are invited to choose 30 of the 45 members of the Majlis al-Shura, a consultative body without much power, in an unprecedented ballot which should not however change the balance of power in this rich Gulf country . Until then, all the members of this council were appointed by Emir Tamim ben Hamad Al-Thani.
The Qataris began, Saturday, October 2, to vote to elect the majority of the members of their legislative body, an unprecedented ballot in this rich Gulf country.
Voters are invited to choose 30 out of 45 members of the Majlis al-Shura, an advisory body with little power. Until then, all the members of this council were appointed by Emir Tamim ben Hamad Al-Thani.
While the polling stations opened at 8:00 a.m. (05:00 GMT) and closed at 6:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. GMT), observers stress that the poll should not change the balance of power in the country ruled by the ruling family and where the parties policies remain banned.
At a polling station at a school in the Onaiza district of Doha, Qatari citizens in traditional clothes registered to vote, before placing their envelopes in a ballot box.
The 284 candidates (including only 28 women) had to be approved by the powerful Interior Ministry and hope to snatch one of the 30 seats to be filled.
The Shura council will be able to propose laws, approve the budget or even dismiss ministers, prerogatives that it did not have before. But the all-powerful emir, who will appoint the other 15 members, will have a right of veto.
The majority of Qatar’s 2.5 million inhabitants are foreigners and therefore cannot vote. Among the 330,000 Qataris, only the descendants of inhabitants already citizens of the country in 1930 have the right to vote and to stand as candidates, automatically disqualifying families naturalized since.
Votes have already taken place internally
The holding of this election, provided for by the 2004 Constitution but postponed several times, takes place when the country is in the spotlight.
One year before the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the authorities believe that holding these elections “will attract positive attention” to the country, said Luciano Zaccara, Gulf specialist at the University of Qatar.
“It’s a way of showing that they are going in the right direction, that they want more political participation,” he adds.
But experts aren’t expecting a turning point either. According to diplomatic sources, internal votes have already taken place to determine who to elect in constituencies.
Due to the small number of candidates in his constituency, a voter said on condition of anonymity that the vote already seemed “clear enough”.
“It’s a new process and we are still figuring out what (the ballot) means to us,” he said.
The Qataris have already lent themselves to the electoral exercise, having already voted in the past during constitutional reforms or local elections.
The results of these elections are expected in the evening.