Qatar will hold its first legislative elections for Shura Council members in the latter half of 2013, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani announced Tuesday (November 1st) during the 40th session of the council.
The move was welcomed by Qatari citizens, and analysts called the announcement a historic achievement and a sign of democratic transformation in Qatar.
Thirty members, or two-thirds of the council, will be elected, while the emir will appoint the remaining 15 as stipulated by the constitution. The new council will wield broad powers, including oversight over the government and its ministers.
In his speech, the emir expressed support for the reform process, calling on governments to take into account public calls for reform. "People do not tolerate injustice forever," he said.
"The majority of the objectives outlined by the Qatari constitution have been fulfilled. We conducted municipal elections and established the constitutional court," Sheikh Hamad said.
"The fulfilment of some items was postponed because of development challenges in the country and the tumultuous conditions in the region, particularly because some items require laws in order to be implemented."
Dr. Ali bin Mohammed al-Hail, a professor of political science at the University of Qatar, said the announcement reflects the aspirations of Qataris who are eager to exercise their right to vote.
"Yes, we have municipal council elections. However, the makeup and powers of the elected municipal council does not reflect how Qatari citizens are approaching the elections," he said.
"Today, we have a new generation that is educated and cultured, and we have a free media and an independent judiciary. Having a legislative authority has become an urgent necessity to complement the transition to democracy in the country."
Former Justice Minister Najeeb al-Nuaimi said the elections will represent a "quantum leap for the Qatari public's participation in government and political, social, and economic decision-making," asserting that people in Qatar "are capable of exercising their right of democracy".
"The Shura Council election law was passed long ago and is now being implemented, which is a good thing. The task of implementing the law rests with the people of Qatar," al-Nuaimi said.
Amal al-Mohannadi, a candidate in the municipal council elections held in May, welcomed the announcement about the Shura Council election and described it as an important step for the emergence of democracy in Qatar.
"I hope Qatari citizens seize the opportunity to express their opinion with utmost honesty and think hard and compare the candidates to make appropriate selections," she said. "And I hope the Shura Council experience and increased voter awareness will be better and more mature than what we experienced in the municipal council elections."
"We are not demanding a quota for women, but we wish there was greater support for them," al-Mohannadi said. "Based upon our experience as female candidates in the municipal council elections, we did not see the kind of support we wanted for female candidates. It is true that there was training and other programmes, but we want greater support for women so they are better prepared to do their part and for it to be part of the state's strategic plan. "
Abdullah bin Hamad, a journalist, expressed optimism about the elections, saying it was "long overdue".
"I often encounter criticism by non-Qataris on the Twitter social networking site, because Qatar, which supports the Arab revolutions, does not have legislative elections," he told Al-Shorfa.
Bin Hamad said the elections represent progress and refused to link them to political events occurring in the Arab world.
"The government announced its intention to hold Shura Council elections before the Arab Spring revolutions broke out, but they were postponed. The reform movement in Qatar preceded the Arab revolutions. We have an independent media, an independent judiciary, and many regulatory bodies, and I think that holding Shura Council elections is an achievement worthy of pride."