GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
The role of the Central Municipal Council in the Institutional Process in Qatar
Paper Proposal Text :
The Central Municipal Council (CMC) is elected by Qatari citizens every four years since it first time in 1999; in May 2015, the CMC will be renewed by elections for the fifth time. The CMC is the only Qatari elective institution. Although elections for the National Consultative Council (whose members are currently designated by the Emir) have been announced on numerous occasions since 2003, when the country\'s new constitution was promulgated, these have never actually taken place. Nonetheless, the current Emir Tamim bin Hamad al Thani metioned that those legislative elections would take place in 2016.
Despite it having purely local attributions, the CMC is a single body at national level, made up of 29 members who have no executive powers and whose role is limited to advising the Ministry of Municipal Affairs on problems that arise between the ten municipalities that make up the country. Despite the interest shown by the Qatari authorities in putting on exemplary elections on all four occasions (1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011), the interest shown by citizens has not been comparable, with a very low rate both of registration on the electoral roll and voter turnout, as shown in the table 1.
What table 1 also shows, is that the registration for the forthcoming CMC 2015 elections dropped to almost 60% of the previous election in 2011, and it is the lowest since the implementation of elections to determine the composition of the CMC. The lack of interest shown by Qatari national on this occasion worried the authorities, as the CMC seems not to be the Qataris’ preferred mechanisms to channel their demands and concerns to the authorities, as they expected.

Table 1: Registered voters and electoral turnout in CMC elections, 1999-2015
Year Registered voters Votes cast Turnout
1999 21995 17532 79,7%
2003 24195 7897 37,7%
2007 28139 13959 52,3%
2011 32622 13606 43,3%
2015 19396 N/A N/A
Source: Ministry of Interior

These technically faultless municipal elections show that the Qatari authorities take interest in carrying out elections which conform to international standards and effort themselves in making the Qataris aware of their electoral rights and duties. However, the real question regarding these elections would be: why vote? And a second question would be, does the CMC institution really matters? On account of its little executive authority –proclaimed also by candidates and former CMC members–, and the fact that it does not represent almost 80% of Qatari residents, or grant them the right to vote or to channel their demands to the authorities, the Central Municipal Council (CMC) is neither plural nor efficient in its duty.
This paper will try to address some of the questions proposed in the workshop description regarding the CMC. What role the CMC play in engage citizens in decision making process, in engaging nationals in municipal affairs and in creating community awareness?
In order to address those questions the three sided of the equation should be analysed. First, what is the aim of the authorities in establishing a representative elective body? Second, what are the goals and aims declared by the candidates and CMC members? And third, what are the expectations of voters (and non-voters) when deciding to engage in the electoral process?
The fieldwork for this paper is still ongoing, but it departs from a previous electoral observation mission, fieldwork and interviews conducted during May 2011 CMC elections. The monitoring of the voters and candidate registration process, as well as the electoral day, will help to analyse the citizens and authorities commitment with the institutionalization of an electoral process that is aimed to empower national population, promote accountability and transparency in municipal affairs.
Data provided by the Ministry of Interior, as well as surveys conducted by the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute SESRI, at Qatar University, will be the main primary sources analysed in this paper. Interviews conducted among Qatari voters and candidates in 2011 and 2015 will complement the information required to elaborate some preliminary conclusions.