As authorities urge locals to sign up to vote in the upcoming Central Municipal Council elections, apathy appears to be running high. While it’s true that CMC members can only recommend – and not effect – change, one young Qatari who will be voting for the first time explains why it’s still essential for her peers to participate in the process.
In 2011, during the height of the Arab Spring, the government made a promise on live television that in 2013, the Qatari people would have the right to vote for the Majlis Al Shura, which is Qatar’s legislative branch. Not surprisingly, in 2013, the Majlis Al Shura elections were delayed.
This week, voter registration began for another election, the Central Municipal Council (CMC) election. The CMC is Qatar’s only elected body.
Currently, its members have little to no power. The CMC is simply a consultative body and approximately only 40 percent of its recommendations were accepted by the state in the fourth council term, according to the Vice Chairman, Jassem Al Malki, as reported by Al Raya.
The CMC’s lack of power appears to have affected voter registration turnout – in the first four days of voter registration, only 7,442 people registered.
And if the past is any indication, the number of those who actually are expected to turn up for elections could be as low as 50 percent of registered voters. In 2011 for example, only 13,606 out of 32,662 registered voters turned out to cast their vote.
The population of Qataris is roughly around 300,000 people, but even a conservative estimate of 250,000 people would still mean less than 3 percent of Qataris have registered to vote this year.
This is unfortunate, because regardless of the lack of interest in the CMC election, the future of Qatar is a democratic one and the constitution makes that clear.
In order to move forward, the CMC needs to be given more power and responsibility because it will result in greater civic engagement. Currently, the CMC is not taken seriously not only because of its lack of power, but also because of the quality of candidates and their recommendations.
The CMC members are known to make outlandish comments. An example would be Ahmad Al Shaeeb’s recommendation for the government to create marriage bureaus with a database of prospective spouses, turning the state into a matchmaker of sorts.
Nevertheless, giving the CMC more power is the way to go. Expanding the body’s responsibilities could raise the stakes, which would help improve the caliber of candidates and boost voter participation.
As it stands, the CMC is to a large extent pointless, so citizens are reluctant to waste their time voting or running for a council that only has the power to recommend changes.
Voters currently elect their friends and families and there is not much downside to whom they elect for the CMC. Empowering the CMC and thus giving citizens greater responsibility in whom they choose would change that.
‘Ready’ to vote?
Additionally, the CMC is a great way to test electoral voting before the first election for the Majlis Al Shura occurs. A fear and a reason why many support the delay of the Majlis Al Shura’s election in Qatar is because the people are seen as not “ready” for electoral voting – and to some extent this is true.
Currently, there are only a few groups that can mobilize citizens to vote. Furthermore, only 8 percent of Qataris believe having more say is a national priority, according to a 2012 survey on life in Qatar.
This lack of civic engagement in the electoral process is frightening.
There needs to be greater civic engagement and participation so when the Majlis Al Shura elections occur, citizens are equipped with the knowledge and experience of voting.
Voting is a privilege and we as Qataris must not abuse this process, which is why this week I registered to vote. We need to vote, we need to show we care about our country and its future.
Voter registration is easy and quick. Furthermore, it can be done no matter where you are through your phone using the Metrash 2 application.
The government has also set up a hotline number (2342555) for inquires. Voter registration ends Jan. 22, 2015, and the final candidate list will be announced in early February. Elections will be held in May.
Do you plan to be heard? Thoughts?
Democracy isn’t for every nation, culture, or people.
History has adequately demonstrated that in some countries it works, in other countries it is a disaster. When it is thrust upon an uninterested people, it is the least successful.
If the majority of Qataris are happy with the current situation, then so be it. While many criticize Qatar on forums such as Doha News, the country is reasonably successful in terms of GDP, job opportunities, stability, crime, internal corruption, and security–which are the sorts of things that drive people to the ballot box.
Absolutely. Well said,
As a Qatari myself, I don’t find ” the need” of Democracy since “almost” everyone is genuinely happy with the current circumstances. However, I’ll have to say that democracy will produce better outcomes and reduce barriers to a new level. IMO, I don’t think ppl here are ready for the “consequences” giving the implication of other Arab countries (Kuwait, Egypt.. etc). Thus, from what I see, Qatar and Dubai are better off “for now”
Which do you mean by “consequences”? Freedom of conscience, of speech, of movement? You can’t hold Egypt up as an example of why democracy doesn’t work. Democracy was granted and it worked, with the Muslim Brotherhood being elected by a democratic vote.Unfortunately it quickly became clear that the MB’s real intention was to hijack the very democracy they’d been given, which lead to the conflict.
Good thing democracy didn’t get hijacked in the end!
I totally agree.
Im highlighting Qatar being an “Absolute monarchy” with a Qatari society organized on a tribal basis. Applying democracy without diversification will create “power Imbalances” between regular citizens and families closed to the ruling family.
The second point is that I never said democraticy doesn’t work in Egypt. And I really dont want to talk about Egypt and Muslim Brotherhood.
You can’t give democracy from the top down .. And democracy can’t work if the ppl aren’t going to respect the rule of the majority vote
Democracy is supposed to protect minorities, not only the rule of majorities.
It is. But there is also the ‘tyranny of the majority’ in which majorities use democracy to oppress minorities.
I agree that it isn’t for every nation. culture or people.
It is only for the educated and developed ones isn’t it?
Not at all.
Substantial resources, education (only in that educated people tend to be more tolerant of difference), and security help, educated and developed countries mess it up all the time. Weimer Germany is a classic example.
I am happy with the current government we have and ,as you said, do not believe that democracy is for everyone. We may have our problems (as every nation does) but for myself the positives outweigh the negatives and am quite content.
I am not Qatari so my opinion might not be interesting, but please allow me to ask the writer of this article: what are your arguments to make people change their minds? You keep saying it is a pointless body with no real power, but then at the end of the article you insist that everyone should vote just for the sake of it, or just to show they care about their country. Sorry but this is not very compelling as a reason. Qatar went through big changes in the last decade (or 15 years) and the people of Qatar have been spectators all that time, with decisions coming from high up and nobody allowed to challenge or reject them. They can only timidly voice their grief online and in some newspaper articles from time to time, and that’s it.
If these elections are a perpetuation of this status quo then it is understandable why most Qataris are not taking them seriously. People are just boycotting these elections. It is up to the government to come up with the right conclusions and take the right decisions based on this CMC elections fiasco.
What to say. This is for Qataris only. Or can expats vote too.
I can’t think of any country were non citizens are allowed to vote. What do yu want expats to vote for? Unify the country with Kerala?
Well.. residents are often allowed to vote in communal and similar election in various European countries. The Netherlands is one such example. Of course they aren’t allowed to vote in the governmental elections, but they are on a local scale – which to be honest is a good thing as they are part of the town or village and are affected by decisions taken.
Deleting because that’s a racist remark.
I’m sorry but you understanding of racism differs from the standard English version.
1. Keratites are not a race
2. Suggesting they would vote for Qatar to be unified with Kerala is hardly an insulting remark. It is like saying the ethnic Russians in Crimea that voted to be part of Russia is racist against Ukraine.
“the future of Qatar is a democratic one and the constitution makes that clear”. In terms of change the “future” can be a very long time away in Qatar.
I think we need a change. The sooner the better.
it is not possible to push back bribery rumours and combat the support of international terrorist groups when we have no financial transparency and everyone should stop playing with public money that is suppose to belong to people.
Who told you it belongs to the people?
Great article! We are definitely not in dire need of change or democracy for that matter, But it’s good to challenge the authorities and have the people’s voice heard as well.
Hey, I am Qatari too
It is a waste of time as you had stated. Because, they lack power. Their responsibilities are very limited.
As for the placebo “Majlis Alshura”, you had failed to mention that 60% of its members are granted the position directly from the Emir (chosen by 1 person!/ 1 family) and only 40% of them are elected, which of course is not fair.
Did you know that Abdulla Bin Nasser AlThani (the prime minister) has the control over my personal life? I need an approval from him to marry my lady (because she is an expat!). processing times are also vague, 6 months up to 4 years. how much more is the government going to get involved in my personal decisions?
it is worth noting that it can be done in one day, you need “wasta”=”ass kissing” lol and that is not law and it is demeaning and unequal.
They advertise (marketing) sharing an E-mail that anyone can use to send complaints and suggestions however, more than half a year now since i had sent an E-mail and I doubt that anyone had bothered to actually look into my complaint.
It is a struggle to get my lady an unacceptable modern-style slavery visa.
No matter who I vote for, nothing is going to change this BS.
So, why vote?
Lol.. If it isn’t Qatar’s very own opposition member… Member #2 to be precise.. Qatar has two opposition members one living in Egypt (wanted in Doha over financial crimes) and this dude
What’s shameful isn’t you consider yourself an opposition movement.. It’s even qatar opposition party is a joke !! Plz folks check him on YouTube!! Do us all a favor and next time learn to memorize your lines
Ps … Fact check you can marry whomever you want.. But if in the future you want to extend your wife or kids a qatari citizen then like everyone else (and everywhere else) you need to go through the process..
And zero member of shura are elected! Where did you get the 40% from? However none are arbitrary placed by the emir… Each leading tribe or group of people in qatar get one representative who they choose based on age/wealth/education/accomplishments .. Etc
They are then vetted to ensure nothing rotten in their history and approved by the emir
First of all, I get the 40%/60% elections from the Emir’s video when he had announced that elections are going to take place in the final quarter of 2013 and nothing had happened.
Secondly, when you say “But if in the future you want to extend your wife or kids a qatari citizen then like everyone else (and everywhere else) you need to go through the process.” you prove my point.
Just to clarify, 30 of the 45 members will be elected. 15 appointed.
I’m not qatari so how the country is run is none of my business. It would be nice to think he could oppose the government in a non violent way without repercussions.
Yes, I do oppose the government and it is not a shameful thing to do if your point is to gain back your rights as an equal citizen.
You might think that it is shameful because we in Qatar are not used to such things.
Check my tweets out if you want and criticise what I say because it is the only way a person can develop to the better. Plus, I believe that it is positive to cut out all the red lines on the freedom of expression 🙂
@tamimi773 is my twitter account.
Funny enough I heard it is easier for us girls to get the “expat” marriage approval than males once we hit a certain age because of the increasing numbers of unmarried Qatari females (assuming we have our family’s support). Good luck to you, be persistent.
“The CMC members are known to make outlandish comments. An example would beAhmad Al Shaeeb’s recommendation for the government to create marriage bureaus with a database of prospective spouses, turning the state into a matchmaker of sorts.” It’s a sad day when such brilliant ideas are thrown in the bin 🙁 Is he running again?