Qataris begin voting in first ever legislative elections

Qataris begin voting in first ever legislative elections

Analysts say the polls, open from 0500 GMT until 1500 GMT with results expected the same day, will not lead to power shifting

Qataris began voting in polls, the Gulf Arab state’s first legislative elections, on Saturday, to choose two-thirds of the advisory Shura Council in a vote that has stirred domestic debate about electoral inclusion and citizenship.

Thirty members of the 45-seat body will be elected, while the ruling emir will continue to appoint the remaining 15 members of the Council, which will have legislative authority and approve general state policies and the budget.

Analysts say the polls, open from 0500 GMT until 1500 GMT with results expected the same day, will not lead to power shifting from the ruling family and are a largely symbolic nod to democracy.

The Council has no control over executive bodies setting defence, security, economic and investment policy for the small but wealthy gas producer, which bans political parties.

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The legislative polls, approved in a 2003 constitutional referendum, come ahead of Doha hosting the World Cup soccer tournament next year. Critics have said voting eligibility is too narrow.

At a polling station in the Jawaan Bin Jassim school in the district of Onaiza in Doha, Qatari citizens wearing white thobes signed in to vote at a registration desk.

They cast their ballots into a semi-transparent plastic box emblazoned with the dhow boat, crossed swords and palm tree emblem of Qatar.

Eighteen women are standing from among around 183 candidates hoping to be elected at polling stations across 30 districts in the country, which has for several years held municipal elections.

Campaigning has taken place on social media, community meetings and roadside billboards.

The election indicates Qatar's ruling al-Thani family is "taking seriously the idea of symbolically sharing power, but also effectively sharing power institutionally with other Qatari tribal groups," said Allen Fromherz, director of Georgia State University's Middle East Studies Centre.

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