Five women to contest Qatar municipal elections

Five women to contest Qatar municipal elections
The number of women candidates is up on previous years, but the number of registered voters is still sliding.
2 min read
16 April, 2015
A man votes in the 2011 elections. Turnout this year could reach new lows [AFP]

Five women are contesting upcoming municipal council elections in Qatar adding an unusual element to races for the country’s only elected authority.

The five women are among 130 candidates from 27 constituencies who will be competing for seats on the Central Municipal Council on May 13. And although the electorate is traditionally conservative, some feel their chances this year are better than before.

     Only 23,047 people have registered to vote... significantly lower than the total number of potential voters.

Four women contested seats in the last election, and only one was successful.

Fatma Youssef al-Ghazal told al-Araby al-Jadeed that with the addition of several urban areas to her constituency, she felt her chances were now “better than previously”. Nevertheless, she added, a women’s quota for a specified number of seats in the Council would be a useful amendment to present legislation in order to ensure better representation for women.

The one serving woman on the Council, Sheikha al-Jufairi, is running on record, arguing that she should be judged by her achievements while serving on the council and be re-elected on merit.

Strong sandstorms in Doha over the past week has prevented campaigning from taking to the streets, but women candidates – who, in addition to Jufairi and Ghazal are Fatma Ahmed Khalfan al-Jaham al Kuwairi, Fatma Salem Youssef Ali Jusaiman and Amal Eissa Ali al-Benali al-Mhanadi – have not been shy of spreading their platforms on social media.

How many will read them, however, is not clear. Only 23,047 people have registered to vote – almost evenly split between men and women, but significantly lower than the total number of potential voters.

The first Council elections saw a 79.7 percent turn-out. By 2003, that had dropped to 37.6 percent.

Mohammad Saleh al-Kuwari, a former candidate, said the low number of registered voters reflected a widespread belief among Qataris that the Council was without any real influence.

But popular sentiment may not reflect reality. Over the past four sessions, the Qatari government has adopted, in some form, nearly 40 percent of Council recommendations.

The Central Council is supposed to play a consultative role but has no legislative authority. It brings recommendations to the government via the Ministry of Municipal and Agricultural Affairs on issues ranging from infrastructure, healthcare, parks and playgrounds.