24.6 C
Doha
Saturday, March 6, 2021

Voter registration for Qatar’s CMC elections hits record low

-

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

With translation from Riham Sheble

The number of Qataris registered to vote in this term’s Central Municipal Council (CMC) elections appears to be headed toward the lowest level in the political body’s 16-year history.

Thursday was the final day for nationals to sign up to have their name included on a preliminary list of eligible voters.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Interior, 19,396 registered to vote. That’s down 40 percent from the 32,662 registered voters in the 2011 election. It’s also less than the previous low of 21,995 voters who registered for the first poll in 1999.

Registered voters for CMC elections.
Registered voters for CMC elections.

Barring a surge in special requests to be added to the voters’ list, the numbers signal that there is minimal interest among Qataris in selecting the next 29 CMC representatives.

Formed in 1999, the CMC is Qatar’s only elected body. While its actual powers are limited, the CMC has drawn attention to important civic matters such as the safety of petrol stations and rising housing costs.

However, members have also made recommendations that some have found outlandish, such as suggesting that the government create marriage bureaus with a database of prospective spouses.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In a further sign of voter apathy, barely half of these registered voters actually showed up to cast a ballot during the last three elections.

Nevertheless, an electoral official called the registration turnout “acceptable.”

In a statement, Mohammed Taysir Al-Jassim, the chairman of the fifth electoral constituency – which includes the northern part of Al Sadd and Fereej Al Soudan, among other neighborhoods – praised those who had registered:

“The elections are like a wedding for democracy in which all members of society need to take part in order to participate in the development and advancement of the country and to protect all the existing achievements.”

Turnout

Despite Thursday’s cut-off, eligible Qataris can still request that the country’s electoral commission add or retract their names during two revision periods between Jan. 28 – Feb. 5 and Feb. 11-17.

That means the number of registered voters could increase before citizens head to the polls in May.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The number of Qataris eligible to register is not clear. To qualify, citizens must be above the age of 18 and hold Qatari citizenship, or be naturalized Qatari nationals for at least 15 years.

Individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offense, or are working with the police or armed services are ineligible to vote, according to the MOI.

Spanish electoral monitors tried to crunch the numbers following the last CMC election in 2011. While the unknown number of eligible voters made precise calculations impossible, the monitors estimated that only 3.9 percent of Qatari nationals cast ballots, leading them to conclude:

“Real voter turnout is extremely low,” the monitors stated. “This reflects the low interest among Qataris in their municipal elections.”

What’s at stake

One likely reason behind the drop-off in registered voters is that the Ministry of Interior must create new voters’ lists after revising the boundaries of Qatar’s electoral districts for the first time to account for changing demographics.

Prior to this year, the number of registered voters had increased during each subsequent election, according to data published by the Ministry of Interior.

CMC election voter turnout
CMC election voter turnout

Turnout among those registered voters, however, has fluctuated from a high of 79.7 percent during the first poll in 1999 to a low of 37.7 percent during the following election in 2003. Turnout then rose to 52.2 percent in 2007 before sinking to 43.3 percent in 2011.

Some have suggested that few Qataris see the point in the CMC elections, especially given that its members have little to no power.

It has no legislative authority and instead performs a monitoring and advisory role.

“As it stands, the CMC is to a large extent pointless, so citizens are reluctant to waste their time voting or running for a council that only has the power to recommend changes,” first-time voter Alanood Al Thani wrote in an op-ed earlier this month, suggesting that giving the CMC more authority would boost participation rates.

After two rounds of amendments, the voter’s list is scheduled to be finalized by March 3. That day also marks the start of the official campaigning period for candidates.

The election is scheduled for May.

Thoughts?

18 COMMENTS

Subscribe
Notify of
18 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago

So if you work for the amred forces you can’t vote, and all the males 18-35 with mandatory military service would be included in that?

Ibrahim Ali
Ibrahim Ali
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

No.

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

I wondered that too. What’s the rationale behind excluding police and armed forces?

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

What’s rationale?!

Althani
Althani
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

Unbiased opinion?

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  Althani

If you’re offering, then yeah, what’s your unbiased opinion about why police and armed forces are prohibited from voting?

Althani
Althani
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

That was it, They want an unbiased opinion and maybe
people in the armed forces are influenced? ( Not sure though)

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

I don’t think there is any country in the world that allows military and police to vote. I am actually surprised that you are surprised.

CC
CC
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Australia does and the USA for certain. I am pretty confident just about every western democracy

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Uh….. Most countries do allow it, at least the developed ones. And most make available a way for those serving outside their home precincts to vote in absentia. A quick Google search provides a wealth of information on this.

http://aceproject.org/electoral-advice/archive/questions/replies/204229904/mobile_conversation_view

This article references several countries that allow it (though Colombia doesn’t): http://www.colombia-politics.com/policemilitarytogetvote/

This list references the laws of various countries: http://aceproject.org/ero-en/topics/legal-framework/military-voting-000717.doc/view

It’s definitely more common than you seem to think. I’ll be honest: With a little research, I’m surprised you’re surprised I’m surprised.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

You are right. I was mistaken and I must admit I am very surprised military personnel are allowed to vote.

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Like anything else, one’s perspective is developed by one’s experiences. I don’t know where you’re from or where you’ve lived, but one item I read stated that military and police voting is unusual in Arab countries and some parts of Latin/South America. So if that’s where one has primarily lived, then military and police voting would seem strange (and of course the same is true for the alternative). My father was in the military, but growing up I remember he was faithful to mail in his and my mom’s absentee ballots no matter where in the world we lived. So to me, military not being allowed to vote sounds weird. A-qtr’s explanation below definitely makes sense though and why it would be important in some countries.

Will
Will
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I think most people see it as a case of, if you’re willing to die for your country, you should at least by allowed to vote.

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Huh? At least they can in the “west”.

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

I assume “criminal offence” excludes driving misdemeanours otherwise there wouldn’t be anyone at all entitled to vote.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

Armed forces and police force excluded cause they’re are a powerful collective block and can swing any election they wanted in their direction. In absence of political parties they would be the strongest voting body.

Low turn out for one reason only.. CMC has proven to people they are really useless without any legislative or executive powers…

Nuremburg
Nuremburg
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

So it is basically a way of removing power and freedom from those who have their own agendas and have the necessary resources to impose their will over the ‘government’? That’s a good idea. I wouldn’t mind this law as long as the citizens votes actually mattered. They already know these aren’t ‘real’ elections – they were instituted after the protests in 1963 to appease the people. It could be interpreted in the opposite way, but I believe that these results indicate the people want a ‘real’ electoral system.

Mr. B
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Exactly right. Without power, what’s the point of the CMC other than window dressing elections?

Related Articles

- Advertisment -

Most Read

Subscribe to Doha News below!

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.