Qatari voters weigh in on first parliamentary elections | Election News

Al Jazeera speaks with Qatari citizens about their experience of voting for the country’s Shura Advisory Council.

Doha, Qatar – Qataris voted for two-thirds of the Shura advisory council in the country’s first parliamentary elections on Saturday.

Eligible voters trickled into various polling stations in the Gulf nation throughout the day to elect 30 members of the 45-seat body. Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will continue to appoint the remaining 15 members of the council.

The candidates are mostly men, with 29 women among the 284 candidates running for the 30 available council seats.

The participants had to be approved by the Ministry of the Interior based on a large number of criteria, including age and character. The results are expected to be announced later on Saturday.

Previously, the council functioned primarily as a deliberative body, but now it is expected to enjoy legislative authority and approve general state policies.

The council is expected to focus on social issues such as health care, education and citizenship rights.

Qataris number about 333,000 – just 10 percent of the population of 2.8 million. An electoral law passed last July stated that only descendants of those who were citizens in 1930 are eligible to vote, while families naturalized since then are not.

Al Jazeera spoke to voters about their experiences casting their votes and their expectations for the future.

Ali Nebet al-Khulaifi, 44

Ali cast his vote based on a particular election manifesto [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

I followed the various election manifestos that the candidates put out over the past four weeks. I was convinced with one and voted on that basis.

I feel good that I was allowed to participate in the selection of our representatives. I am optimistic and believe this will be a big step forward for the country.

We hope that the council will do what is better for the country, working with the government to implement development plans and monitor and improve the performance of the various ministries.

Sabeka al-Khulaifi, 31

The women’s section of a polling station in Doha [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

I am so grateful for this opportunity because we hope to change a few things in our community. This is a good move in Qatar that is happening for the first time.

One of the main things that attracted me to the candidate I voted for was their stance on women’s rights issues.

I hope the council will help change things for divorced and widowers as they hope to get their own home, and for the body to introduce fewer working hours for working mothers.

Alanoud Khalifa al-Khulaifi, 39

Alanoud hopes the municipality will help to achieve ‘all that is good’ for the country [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

It is a strange but pleasant feeling to vote for the first time in the history of the country. There were points in my candidate’s election manifesto that I consider important.

I hope the council will help to achieve all that is good for the state and for its citizens, especially women.

Mohammed al-Khulaifi, 52

Mohammed says voting in Qatar Shura council elections is a ‘national duty’ [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Voting in today’s elections is a national duty, and it is the legitimate right of every citizen. The voting process was easier than I expected and was quick and easy.

Voting is a huge victory, as citizens can exercise their democratic right. I expect that political and economic demands will increase in the future now that there will be an elected council.

Nouf Mohammed al-Khulaifi, 33

A woman takes part in the Shura Council elections [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Voting gives the public a chance to choose what they need to be part of the government.

For women in particular, voting and representation will help make our voices heard better.

Women are now equal to men – they work in the same industries, they both study and work together to build the country, not just a family.

In particular, I hope the council will help women achieve a better work-life balance.

Hind al-Khulaifi, late 20

Women queuing to cast their vote [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

The voting process was quick and easy. I was nervous before coming here and didn’t know what to expect but it was well organised. It’s a new experience and I’m glad I was a part of it.

I voted for someone who I believe will adequately represent our family’s rights so that if we were concerned in the future, there would be someone in contact with the higher bodies of the state.

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