Simone Foxman and Abbas Al Lawati
Qatar moved a step closer to holding legislative elections Wednesday after delaying them repeatedly for over a decade. The country’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, issued a decision establishing a committee to prepare for elections to a key legislative body, according to a tweet from state-run Qatar News Agency.
Should the process move forward, Qatar would become the last Gulf Arab monarchy to introduce legislative elections. The small gas-rich nation has faced a trade and political boycott from Arab states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that has disrupted its trade and forced it to rethink alliances.
The Shura Council, an advisory body that has a say over the country’s budget and an ability to make suggestions on proposed legislation, according to the Government Communications Office website. But while the council may give opinions on legislation, the emir retains final say over policy.
Elections were mandated by the constitution the country ratified in 2004 but repeatedly delayed by the emir and his predecessor.
Qatar’s support for Islamist movements during the Arab Spring revolts in 2011 put it at odds with some of its neighbors, fellow absolute monarchies that accuse Doha of supporting terrorism and seeking to change the regional order, charges it denies. The 2017 Arab boycott had Qataris rally around their ruler.
The constitution allows for Qataris to elect two-thirds of the Council, while the emir may appoint the remaining 15 members. Members serve for a three-year term. Elections for the Central Municipal Council, another legislative body, took place this year.