Provisions on voters and candidates for Qatar’s upcoming Shura Council Elections have caused heated debates on social media.
As Qatar edges closer to its first historic Shura Council elections in October, many have taken to social media to discuss rules set in place for citizens to vote, as well as the criteria needed to be run for a position in the council, sparking debates and small-scale protests in the Gulf state.
As per current law, Qatari citizens will be able to vote for 30 members of the 45-seat legislative council while the remaining 15 members will be selected by the amir himself.
To vote, Qatari nationals must be 18 by the time the final electoral lists are announced. However, those who have been nationalised are only eligible if their paternal grandfather was born in the Qatar.
For those wishing to win a seat in the council, candidates must be originally Qatari and aged 30 and above by the closing date of the nomination. As per a referendum voted in by Qataris in 2003, such laws can only be changed by the Shura Council, which is unable to do so until it is elected into office.
However, these stipulations caused a stir among some who described them as “discriminatory” against members of Qatari society who cannot run as they are not considered “originally Qatari.”
On social media, members of the Al Marra tribe said they are unable to run for Shura Council elections as they are not “originally Qatari” as per the law, stirring up anger among the community.
Supporters of the tribe took to social media to object the electoral law and on Monday, the Arabic hashtag for “Al_Marra_was_Qatari_Before_the_Government” trended on Twitter, with many defending the tribe and its longstanding roots in Qatar.
Shortly after the trend emerged online, one tweet read: “The Qatari State Security Service arrested 7 members of the Marra tribe after expressing their rejection of the arbitrary law against them to prevent them from running for elections because their sixth grandfather was living in Saudi Arabia!!”
The Ministry of Interior (MoI), concerning the arrest, tweeted that “the relevant authorities of the Ministry of Interior has referred 7 people to the Public Prosecution after using social media to spread incorrect news and incited racism and tribalism.”
In response to the MoI, one Twitter user, mocking the arrests, said “it’s not as if this strife was made and perpetuated through institutions and laws based on “original” vs “nationalised.”
Speaking on Qatar TV on Tuesday, prominent Qatari judge and Qatar University professor of law Dr. Hassan Al Sayed said its important that elections are a means to achieve the goal of appointing those who represent the needs of the people to the Shura Council.
“Elections are not a benchmark of the national identity that has taken shape through the solidarity of the community and its tolerant moral values,” said Al-Sayed to Qatar’s national television channel.
In response to the the growing unrest online, social media users in Qatar quickly mobilised under a hashtag to support the country and Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, calling for calm and logic to prevail.
One tweet read: “Every citizen has the right to object to an article of the law, as it is not descended from heaven, but this must be done in a civilised manner consistent with our civilised approach as educated and aware people. It is not logical to object to a law by violating the law. #OnePeopleAndOurStateIsTamim”.
Another Twitter used urged for change to the system, saying” “Not accepting you as a voter does not demean your citizenship, the matter of the fact is that there are some laws that need to be reviewed, and this is one of the first responsibilities of the Shura Council, so I hope that we will all have the same heart to make this council succeed so that it can perform its role as it must.”
Speaking on Qatar TV, Al Sayed echoed this sentiment, saying: “The possibility of constitutional amendment is carried out by the elected Shura Council, and then referred to His Highness the Emir for ratification.”
Qatari Nationality Law
According to Article 1 of the Qatari Nationality Law, those who are considered ‘originally Qatari’ are:
- Those who settled in Qatar before 1930 AD and maintained their residence there, and retained their Qatari citizenship until the effective date of Law No. 2 of 1961.
- Whoever proves to be of Qatari descent, even if they do not meet the conditions stipulated in the previous clause, and an Amiri decision has been issued as such.
- Those to whom Qatari citizenship has been given, in accordance with the provisions of the law.
- Whoever was born in Qatar or abroad to a Qatari father under the previous clauses.