Nearly half of voters show up in Qatars first parliamentary election

For the first time, the electoral residents of Qatar were able to vote for national elections today. The turnout was 44 percent, according to the Electoral Commission. The result is not yet known.

The Gulf State had not yet had an elected parliament and so the elections were a first. Qataris were previously only allowed to vote for the local elections.

At the same time, it is only a limited step towards democracy. Qataris are allowed to decide parliament for only two thirds (30 out of 45 seats). The fifteen remaining seats are designated by the head of state, emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Greater role for parliament

The electoral law was amended as early as 2003 to allow elections, but they were postponed year after year. Previously, the emir chose all members of parliament, better known as the Shura. Many Arab countries have a Shura, which means consultation. The Shura in Qatar previously advised on policy, but is now given a little more powers.

Members may submit bills, approve the budget or dismiss ministers. They have no participation in defence, finance and security. Political parties remain banned in the Gulf State.

233 people, including 26 women, had run for candidates. Men and women cast their voices in separate spaces.

Who can vote?

When the Electoral Law was introduced, there was a lot of criticism. The law stipulates that only residents who are eighteen and older and whose ancestors lived in Qatar before 1930.

In practice, this means that only a small part of the population can actually vote, since the vast majority of 2.8 million people are not Qatari nationality. Its mostly about expats and foreign workers. The number of Qatari citizens is estimated between 300,000 and 400,000.