Qatar holds municipal elections, plans constitution referendum

16 April 2003
Qatar is to hold a referendum on 29 April to approve a draft constitution, the government announced on 15 April. A spokesman for the drafting committee, Mohammed Jahhan al-Kawari, told AFP that the constitution, the country's first, envisaged the establishment of a 45-strong Shura (consultative council), of which two-thirds would be elected and the remainder appointed by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Last July, head of the drafting committee, Abdullah bin Saleh al-Khalafi, said that the council would be elected on a four-year basis and would have the power to legislate, to approve the budget, and to question ministers. The emir would retain the power to dissolve the body. Women would be given the right both to vote and to hold office.

Qataris voted in their second municipal elections on 7 April, but turn-out appears to have been low, at around 25-30 per cent, compared with an interior ministry forecast of 45-55 per cent, attributed to disappointment with the council, which has only advisory powers (MEED 7:3:03). The ministry said that 29 of the 84 candidates had won seats on the municipal council, including the first female councillor, Yussef al-Jiffri, whose rivals stood aside to ensure her victory. The emirate's first municipal election took place in 1999.

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