Qatari voters weigh in on the first legislative elections | Election News

Al Jazeera talks to the citizens of Qatar about their experience voting for the first time for the country’s Shura Advisory Council.

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

Eligible voters filtered throughout the day at various polling stations in the Gulf nation 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 applicants running for the 30 available seats on the council.

Those who applied had to be approved by the Home Office based on a number of criteria, including age and character. The results are expected to be announced later on Saturday.

Previously, the council acted primarily as an advisory body, but is now expected to enjoy legislative authority and approve general state policies.

The council is expected to focus its attention on social issues such as health, 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 declared that only descendants of those who were citizens in 1930 are eligible to vote, while families that have naturalized since then are not.

Al Jazeera spoke to voters about their experience casting their vote and their expectations for the future.

Ali Nebet al-Khulaifi, 44 years old

Ali cast his vote based on a particular electoral program [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

I was following the various electoral programs that the candidates presented during the last four weeks. I was convinced with the truth and I voted based on that.

I feel good to have been able to participate in the election of our representatives. I am optimistic and I believe that it will be a great step forward for the country.

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

Sabeka al-Khulaifi, 31 years old

The women’s section at a Doha-based polling station [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

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

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

I hope the council will help make a difference for divorced and widowed women hoping to acquire their own homes and that the body will help implement fewer working hours for working mothers.

Alanoud Khalifa al-Khulaifi, 39 years old

Alanoud hopes the council will help 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 electoral program that I think are important.

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

Mohammed al-Khulaifi, 52 years old

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

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

Casting a vote is a great victory as citizens can practice their democratic right. I hope that the political and economic demands will increase in the future now that there will be an elected council in place.

Nouf Mohammed al-Khulaifi, 33 years old

A woman participates in the elections of the Shura Council. [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Being able to vote gives the public the opportunity to choose what they need to be part of the government.

For women in particular, voting and being represented will help make our voices more heard.

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

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

Hind al-Khulaifi, late 1920s

Women lined up to cast their votes [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

The voting process was quick and easy. I was looking forward to coming here and didn’t know what to expect but it was well organized. It is a new experience and I am glad to have been a part of it.

I voted for someone who I believe will adequately represent our family’s rights, so that if we had any concerns in the future, there would be someone who is in contact with the higher organs of the state.

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