The law regulating the elections of the Qatari Shura Council sparked internal controversy amid objections to an article regarding who is entitled to vote and run for office, but others saw it as a “step forward” towards a “democratic” experience and criticized parties “trying to stir up grudges and strife.”
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, ratified, a few days ago, the law regulating the first legislative elections in the country, and is supposed to result in the selection of two-thirds of the members of the Council, and it is scheduled to take place in October.
Plans to hold these elections, which were stipulated in the 2004 constitution, had been stalled for years, and instead, the country’s emir was appointing members of the council.
“We are taking an important step in strengthening the traditions of the Qatari shura and developing the legislative process with a broader participation of citizens,” the emir said when announcing last year the date for holding legislative elections in implementation of the provisions of the constitution.
Qatari political analyst, Abdullah Al-Khater, said in a statement to The Eastern Herald that Qatar is entering this stage in a state of “maturity”, as there is “awareness of the problems related to democracy and the elected council can fill the gaps that hinder its work, and if we can achieve this, we will have a democratic experience.” good and set a model for the region and the rest of the world.”
Qatar, whose citizens make up about 10 percent of the country’s population, has so far only held municipal elections and banned the establishment of political parties. In a referendum held in 2003, Qataris approved a new constitution that provided for partial elections for the council, all of whose members are currently appointed.
According to the new law, “everyone whose original nationality was Qatari and who has completed 18 Gregorian years has the right to elect members of the Shura Council, and anyone who has acquired Qatari nationality is excluded from the condition of original nationality, provided that his grandfather is Qatari and born in the State of Qatar.”
Membership of the Shura Council is linked to several conditions, “the most important of which is that his original nationality is Qatari, that he is not less than 30 years old at the closing of the candidacy door, that he is fluent in the Arabic language, reading and writing, in addition to not having been previously convicted of a crime against honor or honesty.”
Elections will be held to choose two-thirds of the members of the Shura Council, or 30 members of the 45-seat assembly, and the Emir will appoint the remaining members (15 members).
Ministers, members of the judiciary, members of the military, and members of the Central Municipal Council may not run in elections “as long as they hold office, positions or membership.”
The law sets the maximum spending on electoral campaigns at two million riyals (about $550,000).
However, the article regarding who has the right to run for candidacy and membership sparked an internal debate, especially for those who did not meet the conditions. Some of them mentioned the two citizenship laws, which were issued in 1961 and 2005. Amid these objections, the Ministry of Interior arrested people, accusing them of publishing “false information.”
On social networking sites, activists tackled several hashtags related to the articles of the new law, including #Shura_Council elections, in exchange for another hashtag, #One_people_and our Walina_Tamim, which addressed the criticism.
There were reports of demonstrations videos on Twitter by protesters against the law, and activists published videos documenting these protests, while the Qatari authorities confirmed the arrest of seven people.
And a video clip spread on YouTube showing a critic of the law, which states that only those who have the right to run for office have “original Qatari citizenship.”
He said that the Nationality Law promulgated in 1961 gave the naturalized son the status of original citizenship and gave the naturalized 10 years as a “loyalty period” to enable him to exercise his political right as a citizen to vote and run for office. The Nationality Law of 2005 “to deprive the children of naturalized citizens of the right to vote and to run for office without taking into account our role and our vote on the constitution”:
On the other hand, some people on Twitter, faced criticism against the regime, recalling a constitutional article stressing the need to “respect” the Emir of the country.
— عيسىْ بَن خميسٌ الخليفيّ (@eisa_alkhelaifi) August 9, 2021
And Qatari journalist Jaber Al-Marri wrote that “every citizen has the right to object to an article in the law, as it is not from heaven, but in a civilized manner consistent with our civilized approach as an educated and conscious people, so it is not prudent to object to a law by violating the law”:
لكل مواطن حق الاعتراض على مادة في القانون، فهي ليست منزلة من السماء، ولكن بأسلوب متحضر يتفق ونهجنا الحضاري كشعب مثقف وواعِ، فليس من الحصافة أن تعترض على قانون بمخالفة القانون.
مالا يدرك كلّه، لا يترك جلّه
أمن الوطن فوق الجميع#شعب_واحد_وولائنا_تميم
— جابر بن ناصر المري (@JnAlMarri) August 9, 2021
The Ministry of Interior later announced that “the competent authorities in the ministry referred 7 people to the Public Prosecution after they used social media to spread false news and stirred up racial and tribal strife.”
In a press statement published on its Twitter account, the ministry affirmed, “It will not tolerate taking legal measures against anyone who adopts a racist discourse aimed at threatening the security, stability and social peace of society.”
She called on users of the communication platforms to “not offend any component of society, whether on tribal or racial grounds, on the grounds that the cohesion and stability of Qatari society is a responsibility that rests with everyone”:
أحالت الجهات المختصة بوزارة الداخلية عدد (7) أشخاص، إلى النيابة العامة بعد قيامهم باستخدام وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي في نشر أخبار غير صحيحة وإثارة النعرات العنصرية والقبلية #الداخلية_قطر #انتخابات_مجلس_الشورى pic.twitter.com/Hoku3YAC23
— وزارة الداخلية – قطر (@MOI_Qatar) August 8, 2021
Article (41) of the Constitution of the Kingdom on Qatar states that Qatari nationality and its provisions are determined by law, without specifying who has the right to acquire nationality directly.
The Nationality Law of 2005 defines Qataris as essentially “who settled in Qatar before the year 1930 AD and maintained their normal residence there and retained their Qatari citizenship until the date of enforcement of the aforementioned Law No. 2 of 1961, and those who were proven to be of Qatari origin even if they did not meet the conditions stipulated in the clause The former and issued as an Emiri decision, and those to whom Qatari citizenship was restored in accordance with the provisions of the law, and those who were born in Qatar or abroad to a Qatari father under the previous clauses.
Article 16 of the constitution of the Kingdom of Qatar states, “It is not permissible to compromise between a person who has acquired Qatari nationality and a Qatari, with regard to the right to occupy public positions or work in general before the lapse of five years from the date of his acquisition of nationality. A person who has acquired Qatari nationality shall not have the right to vote, nominate, or be appointed in any legislative body. “.
Professor at Qatar University, Dr. Nayef bin Nahar, said in a number of tweets: “It is unfortunate that this tension is currently occurring in Qatari society, how society was one hand in the Gulf crisis and how the situation has reached today into conflict and conflict.”
He considered that the Shura Council law “created a ball of flame that may grow and roll in a way that no one can control. Hopes are directed to His Highness the Emir to intervene and end this situation and restore things to normal.”
Criticizing the Nationality Law, he added: “The previous Qatari nationality law gave the naturalized his political right after ten years of naturalization, and in Kuwait, for example, the naturalized takes his right after twenty years. Qatar can do that or even make it thirty years or even sixty years, but it is necessary at The end of a time limit, if a citizen exceeds it, becomes a full citizen:
الإشكال واضح، قانون الجنسية ٢٠٠٥ لا نظير له في العالم، فالمتجنس في دول العالم هو من كان يحمل جنسية ثم استبدلها بجنسية أخرى، أما ابنه الذي ولد بعد ذلك فلا يكون مجنسًا؛ لأنه لم يحمل جنسية ثم تخلى عنها، لكن القانون القطري يجعل الشخص متجنسًا هو وأبناءه وأبناء أبنائه إلى يوم القيامة.
— د. نايف بن نهار (@binnahar85) August 9, 2021
Qatari political analyst Abdullah Al-Khater said in his statements to The Eastern Herald that the ratification of the law came in implementation of the constitution that was already approved about two decades ago, “but now we need to approve another constitution that overcomes the current problems.”
He adds, “We are now in a dilemma,” noting the importance of revising the constitution because it was placed in a different context, legacy, and a certain historical moment.
Among the issues that he believes should be raised in any new constitution is the “citizenship issue,” meaning “the citizen’s enjoyment of all rights and duties if we frame a system of a state, a people, equal rights and duties, and a state of institutions.”
He wonders: “Is there a disparity in citizenship? Is it acceptable? It may have been acceptable decades ago, but is it acceptable now?”
The Shura Council law stipulates that ministers can be held accountable if one-third of the members agree to that. As for the prime minister, only clarification questions can be directed to him, and no-confidence proposals must have the support of two-thirds of the council members.
Al-Khater says that this council “can hold the government accountable and has great legislative powers, and its success will depend on the members’ ability to persuade and their courage in presenting views and ideas, conveying the concerns of the citizen and society, putting them on discussion and discussing projects of interest to the country.”
However, the council’s structure and method of the election were among the drawbacks put forward by the Qatari analyst, who pointed out that the electoral districts are “limited” and will “force voters to vote for families and not for candidates based on competencies and the electoral program.” The country will be divided, according to the law, into 30 electoral districts, with only one candidate elected to represent each of them.
Al-Khater hopes that the council, which is elected by the majority of its deputies and who inherits a specific council, will “review the constitution and laws to change the situation.” He said that under a “democratic atmosphere, he will be able to address the current problems.”