Article: Elections for Shura Council in 2021

Shura Council in Qatar

Feb. 2, 2022

Qatar held elections for a consultive assembly, known as the Shura Council, for the first time in October 2021, marking a strengthening in public representation.

Qatar's Shura Council, its consultive assembly, was established in 1972 with 20 appointed members. Since then, it has evolved considerably. Historically, the Qatari government has functioned through consultation between ruling families and, for decades, those leading representatives have used the Shura Council to address political and social issues that concern the wider population.

The Qatari constitution came into effect in 2004, establishing the relevant pillars of Qatari society and embodying popular participation in decision making. However, it was not until 2021 that, for the first time, the Qatari Amir announced that elections would take place as a form of boosting the development of the state's legislative process and reframing the functioning of the committee as an advocate for democracy and wider citizen participation. Turnout was 63.5% for the elections, which allowed citizens to vote for 30 out of 45 members of the Council. In the opening session, the Amir stated; “We are all aware of the significance of this historic moment in which we witness the completion of the institutions stipulated in the constitution by establishing an elected legislative authority along with the executive and judicial authorities."

Qatar has been on a bumpy journey in recent years, having endured an economic blockade that, arguably, allowed it to grow in self-sufficiency, confidence, and national pride. Now on better terms with its neighbors, it is looking to a brighter future, of which the recent elections are a crucial part.

Indeed, reforms in education in recent years, as well as efforts toward Qatarization, an effort to ensure local participation in the private sector, have helped to imbue the public with a greater sense of civic duty. And while the majority of electees were men, the appointment of two women to the Shura Council is perhaps indicative of a maturing, modern society.

The election campaign itself was also a reflection of local enthusiasm for the democratic process. And as campaign posters were limited to 10 per candidate by government decree, much of the pre-election campaigning took place online, perhaps a reflection of Qatar's digitalization goals.

Dr. Mourad Aly, head of one of the Qatar-based consulting firms in charge of several campaigns stated to Doha News that;“This campaign is one of the strangest ones because it is the first election in Qatar's history and at the same time people are extremely new to this experience. So, we have to expect a different atmosphere than other campaigns we have seen in other countries."

Doha is keen to cut its own path in the region, especially in wake of the 43-month blockade, and its first elections are a clear indication of its intentions. With the countdown now on to the next elections in four years' time, it remains to be seen how the elected body will influence the direction of the country in the coming months. But either way, many eyes will be on Qatar as it prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and it hopes to put its best foot forward.