Doha: Qataris have for the first time voted two women onto the Gulf emirate’s only directly elected body, the Central Municipal Council, officials announced today. Sheikha Jufairi and Fatma Al-Kuwari both won seats in yesterday’s election to the 29-member council, which has advisory but no legislative powers. Elections director General Majed Ibrahim al-Khulaifi confirmed that it was the first time in the emirate’s history that two women had been elected. Jufairi is a political veteran by Qatari standards and has sat on the council since she was first elected in 2003.
Kuwari, though, is one of 14 first-time winners who will make up almost half of the membership of the new council. Five female candidates stood yesterday and some had called for a quota system to be introduced to ensure better representation for women. Voting is limited to Qataris aged 18 and over, even though citizens make up little more than 10 per cent of the population (around 280,000 people). Although the electorate of more than 23,000 is split almost equally between men and women, the gender imbalance between the candidates remains striking. Officials said that turnout was almost 70 per cent, with more than 14,600 people voting. That was markedly higher than at the last election in 2011 when turnout was just 43 per cent. Yesterday’s vote was only the fifth time there have been direct elections in Qatar.