Qatar has approved an electoral law that paves the way to the country’s first Shura Council elections. Here’s all you need to know.
Qatar is now three months away from holding its historic Shura Council elections, the first to take place in the Gulf State following a decision by Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani last year that was hailed as a positive step towards representation.
As the country edges closer to the much-anticipated elections in October, more details regarding the polls have been announced by authorities.
Per a new decision by the amir, Qatari citizens will be able to vote for a total of 30 members out of the 45 in a general ballot, with Sheikh Tamim selecting the remaining 15.
“The Shura Council elections are an important step towards promoting wider citizen participation in line with the insightful vision and sound guidance of His Highness the Amir of the State of Qatar,” a document summarising the new law said.
As stipulated by the law, all members – those voted in and the appointees – will have equal rights and duties.
“The Shura Council shall assume legislative authority, approve the general policy of the government and the budget, and shall exercise control over the executive authority as specified in this Constitution,” said the document.
How will the drafting process work with the government?
All member of the Council have the right to propose legislative bills, and all proposal must be referred to a relevant committee to be analysed.
This committee will then submit any and all recommendations to the Council which will decide on whether it agrees with the amendments. This will then be submitted as a draft to the government which will study the text and provide an opinion before returning the feedback to the Council.
The Shura Council has the right to forward proposals relative to public matters to the government. However, if the government is unable to comply with such aspirations, it must give its reasons to the Council.
The law states a Council member shall not be reprimanded for opinions and statements expressed before the rest of the members and the committees, while maintaining objective interests for the country without exploiting their position.
So who can vote?
Qatari nationals must be 18 by the time the final electoral lists are announced, while those who have been nationalised are only eligible if their paternal grandfather was born in the country.
Members of all the armed forces including military officers and civil servants can also vote on the condition that they are fully competent and “have not been sentenced to a final judgment in a crime involving moral turpitude or dishonesty, unless they have been rehabilitated in accordance with the law”.
Each electoral district, based on the voter’s residence, will have a list of citizens eligible for voting and their names must meet the requirements. A Voters’ Committee will also be established by the interior ministry [MOI] to prepare, review and announce the voters’ lists.
Those whose names are not on the list will not be allowed to participate in the elections.
Who can be nominated?
Candidates must be originally Qatari and aged 30 and above by the closing date of the nomination. They must also be fluent in reading and writing in Arabic.
If the first requirements are met, nominees can be registered in their electoral district and must then continue to maintain good reputation and conduct while keeping their criminal record clean.
Those who hold ministerial and military positions – state, judicial bodies, ministers of state, Central Municipal Council – cannot nominate themselves.
Candidates working at ministries or other government entities whose names are included in the final lists of candidates are given unpaid leave throughout the elections if they do not have a sufficient leave balance.
The MOI will establish a separate committee for candidates that will be in charge of receiving and examining nomination applications, announcing the initial lists of candidates, and announcing the final lists of candidates.
The nomination applications must be submitted to the Candidates Committee within five days from the date of the opening of the nomination window.
Candidates have the freedom to withdraw their nomination seven days ahead of the election day by submitting a form to the committee.
Candidates are finalised, what’s next?
Once the complete, final list of candidates is announced, the election campaign will start and end 24 hours ahead of the beginning of the election process.
Candidates cannot spend more than QAR 2 million on their election campaign, unless the limit is adjusted by the minister of interior.
As expected, billboards to support election campaigns are expected to flood the streets of Qatar, though their locations will be determined by municipalities to ensure equal spaces are given for each candidate.
Billboards or advertisements cannot be placed in places of worship and religious centres, educational facilities, government establishments, buildings and facilities, archaeological or historical nature, the election half or outside the electoral headquarters at a distance less than 200 meters.
Meetings and electoral gatherings are also not permitted to take places in the aforementioned locations.
“It is prohibited to place posters, advertisements or pictures on trees, planter boxes, signages or traffic lights,” said the document, adding that all posters should be removed within three days of the end of the electoral process.
Electoral meetings are also prohibited without notifying the security department of the location, time list of speakers. They must not take place past 11pm.
All candidates who request, accept or receive any forms of funds from any entity to support their campaign will be imprisoned for at least five years and will pay a fine that does not exceed QAR 10 million.
The MOI will be establishing a third committee for the elections under the chairmanship of a judge selected by the Supreme Judicial Council, along with two members – one from the interior minister and the other from the Ministry of Justice.
“The Committee shall be responsible for conducting the polling process, counting votes and announcing result at the electoral district headquarters,” said the document.
Elections will be completed in a general ballot and the date for electing the members of the Shura Council shall be decided by a decision issued at least thirty days ahead of the specified date.
Candidates will be allowed to enter polling halls and watch the progress of the elections or ask one of the voters from the electoral district to do so.
However, only voters and candidates or their agents will be permitted to enter the said halls without the permission of the Chair of the Committee.
Once the polling is complete, the Election Committee will count the votes and issue a report detailing the results, signed by its chair and members.
“The Chair of the Committee shall announce the result. Candidates or their agents have the right to attend the counting process and announcement of the result, except for the Committee’s deliberations,” said the document.
What happens if there is a tie?
Simply, the Election Committee will be drawing lots with the presence of the candidates.
“Whoever is or becomes the only candidate in the final list of candidates in their electoral district shall be considered a winner of the Shura Council membership by acclamation,” read the document, noting that the general results will be announced by the interior minister.