Qataris go to the polls for an unprecedented election

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Qataris choose the majority of members of their legislative body this Saturday, in an unprecedented vote in the country and very unusual in the Persian Gulf that, however, should not alter the balance of power in this rich emirate.

Voters will be able to vote for 30 of the 45 members of the Majlis al Shura, a low-power consultative assembly. The rest will be appointed by the emir Tamim ben Hamad al Thani who, until now, decided all its members.

The council will obtain new powers, such as proposing laws, approving the budget or removing ministers, but the almighty emir will maintain the right of veto.

In the Persian Gulf, only the small kingdom of Kuwait has a parliament elected by its citizens.

The vote, foreseen by the 2004 Constitution but delayed several times, comes at a time of great exposure for this kingdom, where political parties are still banned.

Qatar is hosting the soccer World Cup next year and authorities believe that organizing these elections “will attract positive attention” to the country, says Luciano Zaccara, a Gulf specialist at the University of Qatar.

“It is a way of showing that they are going in the right direction, that they want more political participation,” he adds.

But experts are not expecting big changes in the world’s leading producer and exporter of liquefied natural gas.

– Democracy with limitations –

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