Qatar's first elected legislature opened by emir in 'historic moment'

Qatar's first elected legislature opened by emir in 'historic moment'
3 min read
The Shura Council, which now has 30 lawmakers voted in by the public, now has the power to address hot-button issues like citizenship rights.
Qatar's elected legislature marks significant progress towards democracy [Getty]

Qatar's legislature was opened for the first time as an elected body by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Tuesday.

The Shura Council now has 30 lawmakers voted in by the public after a poll earlier this month, while Emir Tamim selected a further 15.

The monarch, who drew attention to the event's significance, was joined in attendance by premier Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Thani and other senior figures, Qatar News Agency reported.

"We are well aware of the significance of this historic moment in which we witness the completion of the institutions stipulated in the constitution by establishing the elected legislative authority," the Qatari ruler said.

He congratulated the MPs on their electoral victories while reminding them of their duties.

"I am… confident that you are aware of the great national responsibility that rests on your shoulders upon carrying out your legislative duties and consolidating cooperation with the Council of Ministers to achieve the country's higher interests."

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The monarch noted several of the Gulf nation's recent and upcoming accomplishments, including its holding of the 2022 football World Cup, economic progress, and environmental achievements

Despite widespread support for Qatar's democratic elections, there have been expressions of dissatisfaction with the poll.

Tribal sensitivities were stirred after some members of a major tribe found themselves ineligible to vote under a law restricting voting to Qataris whose family was present in the country before 1930.

The Qatari legislature is the only authority permitted to alter this rule, given the results of a 2003 referendum, Doha News reported .

However, it only receives the power to do this once it had been voted in.

Late last month, foreign minister and deputy prime minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, told the US Council on Foreign Relations that "there is… a clear process for this law to be changed that the next Shura council should address."

During his Tuesday address, Emir Tamim indicated the country wishes to "promote equal Qatari citizenship and translate it into practice" and revealed he had "instructed the Council of Ministers to prepare the appropriate legal amendments".

He also said there must be "intensive social and educational work, especially on countering tribal bigotry vis-à-vis public interest or loyalty to the homeland and national unity."

"This negative aspect of tribalism took us all by surprise recently when some of its manifestations reminded us of its existence," he noted, in apparent reference to isolated protests during the run-up to the elections.

The emir insisted Qatar "cannot ignore the disease for mere disappearance of its symptoms", despite the country working to resolve the issue.