Browsing 'central municipal council' News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Keith Ivey/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

With prospective voters showing limited interest in this spring’s Central Municipal Council (CMC) elections, a local human rights official has called on Qatari university students to “enhance the democratic process” by casting a ballot.

“People need to practice their voting rights to understand the democratic process and learn that their will and voices matter,” said Yousef bin Obeidan Fakhro, the deputy chairman of Qatar’s National Human Rights Commission.

He was speaking at a panel discussion at Qatar University late last week on women’s political rights. The event was held several weeks before the May 13 CMC elections, which may see the lowest number of registered voters in the political body’s 16-year history.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Race Bannon/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Those who do cast a ballot, however, appear poised to have a choice of the highest number of candidates since the inaugural CMC election in 1999. The Peninsula reports that 135 individuals have submitted tentative nominations for the council’s 29 seats. By comparison, 101 candidates ran in the 2011 elections.

Some have suggested that the apathy around voting for Qatar’s only elected political body may stem from its limited powers. The CMC can only make recommendations and does not have any legislative authority.

Despite its advisory role, Fakhro argued that the elections are still important.

“The more people exercise their voting right, the more it enhances the democratic process and will push the candidates to perform their best to garner the respect and trust of their constituencies,” he said, calling on Qatari women in particular to not waste the opportunity.

Women’s rights

Fakhro argued that Qatar “set a precedence” in the Gulf by allowing women to vote and run in CMC elections. Several years later, in 2005, Kuwait’s parliament passed legislation granting female suffrage.

Nevertheless, women are underrepresented on the CMC. Only five of the 135 candidates who are tentatively registered to run in this year’s election are women. That includes the CMC’s lone female member, Sheikha Yousuf Hasan Al Jufairi, who is standing for re-election.

The low numbers led to questions during last week’s forum over whether Qatar should introduce quotas at the CMC and set aside a certain number of seats for women.

Fakhro disagreed with the suggestion, arguing that giving special treatment to a certain group “conflicts with the principles of democracy.”

QU/Facebook

Qatar University

However, his fellow panelist – Aisha al-Mannai, the former dean of the Faculty of Sharia at Qatar University – took the opposite position.

She argued that the quota system was an important mechanism for empowering women, especially in conservative societies where women face challenges when attempting to engage in politics.

Quotas, she said, are “a mechanism that can ensure gender equity.”

During her presentation, Al-Mannai stressed that there are no prohibitions on women holding public office – including senior judicial and ministerial positions – in Islamic sharia, adding that there are many examples in Islamic history of women’s political participation.

Later in the discussion, Fakhro was asked why children born to Qatari mothers and non-Qatari fathers do not receive Qatari citizenship. By contrast, Qatari men are able to pass their citizenship to their children born to non-Qatari women.

Qatar’s citizenship laws have been criticized by international human rights organizations as a form of discrimination and debated locally.

Fakhro said it was an issue of preserving Qatar’s sovereignty, adding there was a fear that granting more people Qatari citizenship would lead to a dilution of the country’s national identity and a loss of Qatari society’s homogeneity.

Thoughts?

Josh Hughes/Flickr

Qatari nationals are being urged to re-register to vote in the fifth round of Central Municipal Council (CMC) elections, which are due to take place in May 2015.

During the elections, which are held every four years, voters will choose a representative from each of 29 constituencies to sit on the council. The officials meet in Doha every two weeks.

The CMC does not have legislative powers, but the council’s functions include:

  • Monitoring the implementation of laws, decrees and regulations related to urban and industrial planning, infrastructure and other public systems; and
  • Overseeing the economic, financial and administrative management of municipal affairs and agriculture.

Ahead of the elections, the Ministry of the Interior has redrawn the constituency boundaries, to reflect changes in the country’s demographics and to take into account shifts in population to particular areas.

For example, Al Jasra, Bin Omran, Madinat Khalifa, Muaither and Al Rayyan have been merged after the number of Qataris in these areas fell over the past several years, Qatar Tribune reports.

As such, every citizen is required to register again through MOI in order to have the right to cast a vote.

Constituencies

This week, senior MOI officials toured the sites of polling stations for each of the constituencies to ensure they are ready to be used, QNA reported.

blue address plate

MOI/Twitter

Brig. Majid Ibrahim Al Khulaifi, director of the MOI’s Elections Department, said in a statement that the aim was to ensure “transparent elections” took place in a way that enabled citizens to freely cast their votes.

The ministry, which has a list of the new constituencies on its website, has also enabled a feature that allows voters to search for their electoral district.

To do so, they can either use the details in their blue address plaque (inputting their zone, street number and building number) or their Kahramaa number along with the name of their street.

Re-registration can be done online, via a dedicated section for the elections on the MOI’s website, which is in Arabic.

Those eligible to vote should be:

  • Qatari nationals or naturalized Qatari nationals for at least 15 years;
  • At least 18 years old; and
  • Living in the constituency in which they plan to vote.

Those who have been convicted of an offense by law, or who are working with the police or armed services are not eligible to vote, according to the MOI.

Advisory role

The CMC serves in an advisory and monitoring role, reporting violations and making recommendations to government ministries. However, its effectiveness has been called into question in recent years, as members recommendations often are not acted upon.

Last fall, a report produced by the CMC’s general secretariat found that only one-third of some 111 recommendations made during the council’s last session were acknowledged by authorities.

In recent years, the CMC has sought to increase its authority, without success. Earlier this year, it requested powers to investigate minor violations, collect evidence and testify as witnesses in court. But the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning denied this request.

Meanwhile, plans to introduce elections for Qatar’s law-making body, the Advisory (Shura) Council, which were supposed to take place in 2013, have been postponed until at least 2016 after decades of delay.

Thoughts?

Jidhu Jose/Flickr

Qatar will hold its fifth Central Municipal Council (CMC) elections in May 2015, officials have announced.

The CMC is the country’s only directly elected body, and comprises of 29 members who represent various constituencies around the country.

According to Hukoomi, the council has no legislative powers, and instead serves the following roles:

  • Monitors the implementation of laws, decrees and regulations related to urban and industrial planning, infrastructure and other public systems; and
  • Oversees the economic, financial and administrative management of municipal affairs and agriculture.

The effectiveness of the council has been questioned in recent years because many of the CMC’s requests are not formally acknowledged by authorities.

This year, the CMC sought to hold more authority by requesting judicial powers, but was rebuffed.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s leaders have talked about holding direct elections for the more powerful advisory council for years, with the former leader pledging that they would take place in 2013.

But that vote was postponed for at least three years when the new Emir assumed power last summer.

Re-districting

Only Qataris are eligible to vote in the CMC elections, and all interested in casting a ballot have been asked to re-register their names for the upcoming polls.

That’s because for the first time since the CMC’s inception 15 years ago, the Ministry of Interior has decided to redistrict the map to take into account the changing demographic landscape.

The lines have now been redrawn to form many new constituencies, and to scrap some of the old ones because of depopulation, officials said in a press conference yesterday.

For example, Al Jasra, Bin Imran, Madina Khalifa, Muaither and Al Rayyan have been merged after the number of Qataris in these areas fell over the past several years, Qatar Tribune reports.

Officials added that a committee was formed to study the existing constituencies. According to the Qatar Tribune, redistricting decisions hinged on three factors:

“The first of which was changing of the constituencies according to the Qatari population and density and perceptions of its future. Second, taking into account the nature of the representation in the Council so that it would reflect the different towns and villages in different regions. Third, taking into account the social constitution of the constituencies.”

A map of the new districts, or constituencies, is expected to posted on MOI’s website next week. And a voter registration campaign is expected to kick off after Eid next month.

Thoughts?