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Qatar announces biggest electoral reform in history, year ahead of World Cup

The vote is expected to take place in mid-October

David Harding
Thursday 29 July 2021 20:44 BST
A Qatar council election campaign poster in Doha in 2019
A Qatar council election campaign poster in Doha in 2019 (David Harding)

Qatar’s emir has approved the biggest voting reform in the Gulf state’s history, announcing that elections to the country’s Shura Council will take place for the first time later this year.

The vote is expected in mid-October, a little more than a year before the country hosts the first football World Cup to be played in the Middle East.

The Shura Council is the country’s most senior consultative body.

Qatar’s prime minister urged people to register in order to vote but participation will be regulated. Under the approved proposals, those eligible to vote must be aged 18 and be Qatari. Candidates must be aged 30 years or over and of Qatari origin. Some 90 per cent of Qatar’s population of around 2.7 million is from overseas.

The vote will see 30 members of the 45-seat council elected. The remaining members will be appointed by the emir. Currently, all council members are selected by the ruler.

The GCO said that anyone elected to the council could have a say on “approving the general policy of the government and budget” as well as present proposals to ministers.

Each candidate will have a campaign budget of around two million riyals, around £400,000. Some election posters for the vote have already started appearing in Doha.

The election comes at an important time for Qatar, an absolute monarchy. It will take place 13 months before the World Cup kicks off.

Qatar has come under continuous criticism since being awarded the tournament by Fifa and has been at pains to present itself as one of the region’s most progressive countries, especially during a recent four-year long diplomatic spat which saw it economically blockaded by more powerful neighbours, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

It will not be the first vote to take place in Qatar though.

Municipal elections take place every four years, the last being in 2019. Turnout was below 50 per cent and among the four women who stood, just one was elected.

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