DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Qatar on Sunday announced Oct. 2 as its date for the country's first election to vote for members of its top advisory panel, known as the Shura Council.
The date was announced by royal decree, according to a report in the state-run Qatar News Agency.
The Shura Council election aims to give the country’s citizens more say on how their hereditary emirate is governed. Qatar's ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has described the election as “an important step” for the country.
The election allows Qatari citizens to choose 30 members of the country’s 45-seat Shura Council, which are now all hand-picked by the ruling elite. The council has no substantive legislative power but advises the emir on new laws and policies.
The Gulf Arab nation, which is a close U.S. ally, is among the world's wealthiest per capita and is one of the world's biggest producers of gas. Qatar has a total population of some 2.3 million people, with foreigners and expatriate laborers making up the bulk of that figure and Qatari citizens estimated to number between 300,000 and 400,000.
It was not immediately known how many Qataris will be eligible to vote in the elections. Registration for the vote had been ongoing in past weeks.
Qatar’s constitution, approved in a 2003 referendum, calls for the government to hold Shura elections and subsequently expand the council’s power to include the ability to dismiss ministers, approve the national budget as well as draft and propose legislation.
Other Gulf Arab nations have varying levels of limited representation but remain governed from the top by hereditary rulers. Kuwait and Bahrain’s parliaments are elected and wield relatively more influence.
The Associated Press