Qataris vote in first-ever legislative elections but millions excluded

Cairo, Oct 2 (EFE).- Qataris were heading to the polls Saturday to vote in the Gulf country’s first-ever legislative elections that rights groups say highlight the nation’s discriminatory citizenship policies.

Voters will elect 30 members (or two-thirds) of the 45-seat Shura Council, an advisory body which will have limited powers.

Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad al Thani will appoint the remaining 15 members of the Council.

The Shura will be able to approve government policies and state budgets, but will have no authority over the executive branch which is responsible for economic, security and defense policies.

The tiny oil-rich Gulf nation, a de facto absolute monarchy, bans political parties.

The electoral commission, which was set up just two months ago, did not clarify how many people are eligible to run, but it did say that only those with “original” nationality (born in Qatar to Qatari parents who had settled in the country before 1930) can stand as candidates.

Voting eligibility has also been limited to “naturalized Qataris” whose grandfather was born in Qatar, meaning millions of people, including foreign workers in the country as well as members of the semi-nomadic Al Murra tribe, are excluded from taking part.

Only 13 percent of Qatar’s 2.7 million inhabitants are native Qataris.

Human Rights Watch has said that the “discriminatory” citizenship rules have disenfranchised millions of Qatari citizens.

“Qatar’s attempt to establish citizen participation in government could have been a moment to celebrate, but it has been tarnished by denying many Qataris their full citizenship rights and repressing critics of arbitrary voter disenfranchisement,” Adam Coogle, HRW’s deputy Middle East director said.

“The new laws have only reminded Qataris that they are not all equal,” he added.

A total of 26 women were running for a seat out of a total of 183 candidates.

The Gulf country has had a legislative body since 1972 whose members, until this year, were entirely appointed by the Emir. EFE


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