Qataris began voting in the emirate’s first legislative election Saturday in a symbolic nod to democracy that analysts say will not lead to power shifting away from the ruling family.
The vote is for 30 members of the 45-strong Shura Council, a body with limited powers that was previously appointed by the emir as an advisory chamber.
Polls opened at 05:00 GMT and will close at 15:00 GMT with the results expected the same day.
At a polling station in the Jawaan bin Jassim school in the Onaiza district of the capital Doha, Qatari citizens wearing white thobes signed in to vote at a registration desk.
After queueing briefly, they cast their ballots into a semi-transparent plastic box emblazoned with the dhow boat, crossed swords and palm tree emblem of Qatar.
Observers say the decision to hold the election, required under the 2004 constitution but repeatedly delayed in the “national interest”, comes amid heightened scrutiny as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup.
“It’s a way to show that they are moving in the right direction, that they want to achieve more political participation” before the World Cup, said Luciano Zaccara, an assistant professor in Gulf politics at Qatar University.
The Shura will be allowed to propose legislation, approve the budget and recall ministers. But the emir, all-powerful in the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, will wield a veto.