Qatari voters weigh in on first legislative elections

Al Jazeera speaks to Qatari citizens about their experience voting for the first time for the country’s advisory Shura Council.

Eligible voters trickled in across various polling stations on Saturday to elect 30 members of the 45-seat body [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Doha, Qatar – Qataris on Saturday voted in the country’s first legislative elections for two-thirds of the advisory Shura Council.

Eligible voters trickled in throughout the day across various polling stations in the Gulf nation to elect 30 members of the 45-seat body. Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will continue to appoint the remaining 15 members of the council.

Turnout for the election was 44 percent, the elections’ Supervisory Committee said.

The candidates were mostly men, with 29 women among the 284 hopefuls running for the 30 available council seats.

Those running had to be approved by the Ministry of Interior against a host of criteria, including age and character. Results are expected to be announced later on Saturday.

Previously, the council mainly acted as a consultative body, but is now expected to enjoy legislative authority and approve general state policies.

The council is projected to focus its attention on social issues such as healthcare, education, as well as citizenship rights.

Qataris number about 333,000 – only 10 percent of the population of 2.8 million. An electoral law approved last July stated only descendants of those who were citizens in 1930 are eligible to vote, while families that have been naturalised since then are not.

Al Jazeera spoke to voters about their experience with casting their ballot and their expectations for the future.

Ali Nebet al-Khulaifi, 44

Ali cast his vote based on a particular electoral programme [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

I was following the various electoral programmes that the candidates put out over the past four weeks. I was convinced with a certain one and voted based on that.

I feel good to have been able to participate in choosing our representatives. I am optimistic and believe that this will be a big step forward for the country.

We hope that the council will do what is better for the country, work together with the government to implement development plans, and monitor and improve the performance of the various ministries.

Sabeka al-Khulaifi, 31

The women’s section at a Doha-based polling station [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

I am so grateful for this opportunity because we are hoping to change a few things in our community. This is a good step in Qatar that is happening for the first time.

One of the main things that drew me to the candidate I voted for was their stance on issues concerning women’s rights.

I hope the council will help change things for divorced and widowed women as they are hoping to acquire their own houses, and for the body to help implement fewer working hours for working mothers.

Alanoud Khalifa al-Khulaifi, 39

Alanoud hopes the council will help achieve ‘everything that is good’ for the country [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

It is a weird yet pleasant feeling to be voting for the first time in the country’s history. There were points in my candidate’s electoral programme that I believe are important.

I hope that the council will help achieve everything that is good for the state and for its citizens, especially women.

Mohammed al-Khulaifi, 52

Mohammed says voting in Qatar’s Shura Council elections is a ‘national duty’ [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Voting in today’s election is a national duty, and it is every citizen’s legitimate right. The voting process was easier than I expected and was quick and easy.

To cast a ballot is a huge win as citizens get to practise their democratic right. I expect political and economic demands to increase in the future now that there will be an elected council in place.

Nouf Mohammed al-Khulaifi, 33

A woman participates in the Shura Council elections [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Being able to vote gives a chance for the public to choose what they need to be a part of the government.

For women, in particular, voting and being represented will help our voices be more heard.

Women are now equal to men – they work in the same sectors, they both study and work together to build the country, not just a family.

In particular, I hope the council will help women achieve a better balance between their work and personal lives.

Hind al-Khulaifi, late 20s

Women lined up to cast their ballots [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

The voting process was quick and easy. I was anxious before coming here and did not know what to expect, but it was well-organised. It is a new experience and I am glad that I was a part of it.

I voted for someone who I believe will represent our family’s rights adequately, so that if we had any concerns in the future, there would be someone who is in contact with the upper bodies of the state.

Source: Al Jazeera

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