Monday, May 2, 2011

Does Qatar Hold Elections?

A couple of weeks ago these signs started showing up all over the city and created some curiosity in the expat community.  People started making guesses about what they could mean.  My favorite guess was a group of women who half jokingly said the signs were memorials for people who had died in car accidents in the roundabouts where they were posted.  When they started seeing the same signs all over the city though, that kind of blew that theory out of the water.  So what could they be?  No English is included on any of the signs so the wondering continued until we could talk to a reliable Arabic speaker.

My reliable source told me that they are election signs for Doha City Council.  Who knew there were ever elections in Qatar?  I surely didn't.  Other expat theories proposed that maybe this was a PR campaign for Qatar so that the world could see evidence of some democratic activity going on, something to stave off Qatar's own civil unrest, but since the citizens of Qatar are very happy to receive and spend their millions of riyals they receive from the government, there really are no worries here about protests from Qatari nationals.  BUT if it was a PR campaign a few of us imagined that the emir would call in a few favorable people who were on his good side and tell them that they were going to run for office; then he would tell them if they were going to win and by how much.  This is what some of us imagine democracy to be like under a Middle Eastern monarch, but then again, I haven't researched the government workings of Qatar so I am by no means an expert.  I am very interested though, especially considering there is an abaya clad woman running for office, so I did a little research and found this.

Apparently there have been three elections in Qatar and the last one was in 2007 - that is why I have never seen campaign signs like these here before.  As I researched the issue though I found out that this election is going to be more interesting, with a predicted higher voter turnout, than the previous ones.  Because of the political climate in the Middle East these days, this new council to be elected will receive more power and legislative authority than ever before.  So hooray for the democratic process taking place here in little old Qatar!  Oh, and if you look closely under the sign with the woman candidate you will see a very smashed car - a perfect example of what this new Doha City Council can use its power to change!


terahreu said...

Ohhh good researching! I would LOVE to sit in on one of those 'councils' can you imagine the discussions? 'I think we need more sports in this country, there isn't enough', or 'I do believe that we need to exempt all Land Cruisers from any traffic laws, especially if the Land Cruiser is white and has flames on the side. Those ones are special.' I have a feeling the discussion would be very different if the real representation of Doha residents (80% of the population who are expats) actually sat in on one of those meetings.

Amber said...

oh! I just got Doha-sick! I see an Alfardan in the distance. Is that one mine? Probably not.

Nice...who gets to vote? I actually knew that there was an elected piece of the government. I don't think that they have had very much say ever. Oman actually has a more substantial elected portion with a bit more power and prominence. I always find that the governments with mixed Monarchy/Democracy are interesting and that there never is an even balance.