Qataris began voting in the country’s first legislative elections for two-thirds of the advisory Shura Council in a vote that disrupted the current debate over electoral inclusion and nationality.
Voters began pushing to the polls on Saturday, where men and women went to separate sections to elect 30 members of the 45-seat body. The ruling emir will continue to appoint 15 members of the council.
Polls opened at 05:00 GMT and will close at 15:00 GMT, with results expected the same day.
The council will enjoy parliamentary authority and support general state policy and budget but has no control over executive bodies that set up a defence, security, economic and investment policies for the small but wealthy gas producer that bans political parties.
Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from a polling station in the capital, Doha, shortly after the elections opened, said the elections were seen as a major step in the modernization of the government system.
“What we have seen so far … is a fairly active presence of voters,” he said.
“There is excitement among the citizens who are eligible to vote in these elections. The [Shura Council] body has been largely consultative in recent decades, but it has been pressured in Qatar to share responsibility, increase turnout,” To develop a relationship between the citizen and the state, “he added.
“Because of this came the idea or the pressure to make this body one in which people can stand, vote and gain more power. This is similar to the parliament of other countries in which it can enforce laws; ministers can ask and even dismiss.
Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani described the vote last month as a new “experiment” and said the council could not expect the “full role of parliament” from the first year.
All candidates must be approved by the powerful Minister of the Interior against a wide range of criteria, including age, character and criminal history. They avoided a single debate on Qatar’s foreign policy or status as a monarchy instead of focusing on social issues, including health, education and civil rights.
The candidates are mostly men, with almost 30 women among the 284 hopes sitting for the 30 available councillors.