Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani approves electoral law for first legislative election

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani speaks during Kuala Lumpur Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Qatar’s emir approved laws on Thursday for the Gulf Arab state’s first legislative election in October, when Qataris will elect two-thirds of the advisory Shura Council, his office said.

The election, plans for which were first approved in a 2003 constitutional referendum, is being held before the capital Doha hosting the World Cup soccer tournament next year.

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani will continue to appoint 15 members of the 45-seat Shura Council which, according to one of the new laws, will have legislative authority and approve general state policies and the budget.

It will also exercise control over the executive, except for bodies setting defence, security, economic and investment policy.

Like other Gulf states, Qatar bans political parties although it already holds municipal polls.

It has sought to burnish its image, including by improving migrant workers’ rights, following allegations of labour abuse and a boycott imposed by fellow Arab states in 2017. Saudi Arabia and its allies in January agreed to end the row.

The electoral law approved on Thursday states that citizens aged 18 and over, and whose grandfather was born in Qatar, can vote in districts in which their tribe or family reside. Thirty electoral districts will each choose one representative.

Candidates must be of Qatari origin and at least 30 years old. The law caps campaign spending at 2 million riyals (an equivalent of $550,000). Foreign funding is criminalised with a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to 10 million riyals.

The huge number of foreign workers in the small but wealthy nation, the world’s top producer of liquefied natural gas, means Qatari nationals account for only 10% of the population.

Anyone convicted of a crime “involving moral turpitude or dishonesty” cannot vote or run “unless rehabilitated”. Ministers, members of the judiciary and municipal councils and military personnel cannot run while in those posts.

The Shura Council law states that ministers can be questioned if a motion is supported by one-third of members, although only clarifications can be sought from the prime minister.

Under the constitution, no-confidence motions must have two-thirds support within the Council.

Kuwait is currently the only Gulf monarchy to give substantial powers to an elected parliament, which can block laws and question ministers, though ultimate decision-making rests with the ruler as in neighbouring states.

Bahrain and Oman have polls for one house of their bicameral parliaments. Saudi Arabia’s advisory body is appointed. The United Arab Emirates selects citizens who are allowed to vote for half the members of its advisory council.

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