The United States presidential election is on many people’s minds now, but there is also notable news on elections coming out of the Middle East. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has announced that elections will be held in October of 2021 for the Shura Council, also known as the Consultative Assembly. A parliament of sorts, the Shura Council’s role is threefold. The council approves the national budget, monitors minister performance, and drafts laws. Like the American Congress, it does not possess executive authority. Qatari voters will be electing 30 of the council’s 45-member body. The decision to hold elections for members of the Shura Council for the first time will empower Qatari citizens to have some say in the governance of the gas-rich nation.
The electoral decision stems from the adoption of Qatar’s first constitution since independence from the British in 1971. In 2003, an overwhelming majority of Qataris voted for the creation of a new constitution. The document granted Qataris the rights to “free speech, a free press, and freedom of assembly.”
Despite the questions, Qatar is making efforts to craft a greater democratic legitimacy prior to the worldwide attention it will soon receive when it hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Should elections occur next year and on a regular basis, they may help to boost the soft power goals Qatar is attempting to reach in the next few years.