Overview of Act Shura elections
On 29-07-2021, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar, issued Act No. (6) of (2021) issuing the Shura Council Elections Law; This came considering the legislative renaissance witnessed by the State of Qatar. The law was issued simultaneously with the issuance of laws and the formation of other committees related to the Qatari Shura Council and its elections. Including Shura Council Act No. (7) of (2021); This was preceded by the formation of supervisory and executive committees concerned with the Shura Council elections.
This Act was not the first in Qatar; It was preceded by legislation Act No. (9) of (1970) regulating the general elections of the Shura Council in Qatar; Which came in twenty-four articles. It came without a detail unlike the new law distinguished by details, its texts came in (58) articles containing eight chapters; covering most of the details if not all in vividly unambiguous texts.
The first chapter was the definitions, then the provisions relating to the voters, and nomination provisions, then electoral propaganda and its regulations, also the procedure of the election, and judging the validity of the election, and penal provisions for violating the law stipulations, and finally the conclusion was the general provisions.
The law stipulated conditions that should be fulfilled by whoever has the right to elect members of the Shura Council. Everyone whose original nationality was Qatari and who has completed eighteen years of age, when the final lists of voters are announced, has the right to vote. Likewise, members of all military entities, including the military and civil servants working in those entities, who fulfill the conditions stipulated in the law; The law excluded from the requirement of original nationality, anyone who acquired Qatari nationality, but whose grandfather was Qatari and born in the State of Qatar.
The new Shura Council election Act stipulated that the voter’s ability to exercise his right to vote; to be fully eligible; And that a final judgment has not been passed against him in a crime involving moral turpitude or dishonesty unless he has been rehabilitated.
Everyone who fulfills the conditions of the voter has the right to request his registration in one of the voters’ lists in the electoral district in which his national address is located. The application for registration shall be submitted in the form prepared for this purpose; The registration application may be submitted electronically in accordance with the procedures set by the Ministry.
The law grants anyone with an interest an objection or grievance against the initial voter lists with a request submitted in the form prepared for this purpose to the Voters Committee within five days from the date of announcing the lists, indicating the reasons for the objection or grievance, with the supporting documents attached to it.
The Committee shall issue its decision on objection or complaint within five days of the date of its submission, the expiration of this period without a response shall be deemed an implicit refusal; A person whose objection or grievance was refused may appeal without charge against the Committee’s decision within three days of notification of their national address or expiration of the period referred to in the preceding paragraph without response before the Appeals Administrative Chamber of the Court of Appeal. The Chamber shall decide on the appeal within five days from the date on which he or she is admitted to the Court of Appeal. The Chamber shall rule on the appeal within five days from the date on which it is admitted to it, and its judgment shall be final and not subject to appeal; The appeal does not entail a stay of execution of the contested decision unless the court orders a stay of execution.
The Act stipulates conditions that must be met by whoever wants to nominate himself for membership in the Shura Council, including the following:
1- His original nationality should be Qatari.
2- His age at the end of the nomination period shall not be less than thirty years.
3- He should be fluent in Arabic language in reading and writing.
4- He must be registered in the electoral district in which he is running.
5- He should be of good reputation, good conduct and known for his honesty, integrity, and good manners.
6- He must not have been convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude or dishonesty unless he has been rehabilitated in accordance with the law.
7- To fulfill the conditions of the voter in accordance with the provisions of this law.
8- Not to be one of the Ministers, state ministers who are members of the Council of Ministers, those appointed at the rank of minister, members of judicial bodies, military personnel of all military authorities, or members of the Central Municipal Council, as they should not nominate themselves for membership in the Shura Council for the duration of their ranks, positions, or membership, depending on the circumstances.
The candidacy application shall be submitted to the Candidates Committee on the form prepared for this purpose, within five days from the date of the beginning of the candidacy period, and the applications shall be registered according to the date and time of their arrival. The candidacy applicant shall receive a receipt to that effect. The committee examines the applications for candidacy and announces in the premises of the electoral districts the preliminary lists of candidates who have fulfilled the requirements for candidacy.
And for anyone with an interest in the electoral district, an objection or grievance against the preliminary lists of candidates; The objection or grievance shall be submitted on the form prepared for this purpose to the Candidates Committee, including the reasons and supporting documents, within three days from the date of the initial lists of candidates announcement. The Committee may verify the validity of these reasons by any means it deems appropriate. The committee shall decide on the objection or grievance within seven days from the day following the date of its submission, and the expiry of this period without a response is considered an implicit rejection. A person whose objection or grievance has been rejected, may appeal without fees, against the committee’s decision within three days from the date of being notified at the national address or the expiry of the period referred to in the previous paragraph without a response, before the Administrative Appeals Chamber of the Court of Appeal, and the chamber decides on the appeal within five days from the date of his registration with it. Its judgment shall be final and not subject to appeal. The appeal shall not suspend the implementation of the contested decision unless the court orders a stay of its implementation. The lists of candidates shall be modified in accordance with the provisions issued in this regard.
The new legislation provided a text for granting a leave without pay to employees of ministries, other government agencies, public bodies and institutions, whose names were mentioned in the final lists of candidates if they did not have sufficient leave days, from the next day following the announcement of the final lists of candidates until the end of the election process; However, they may not, during this period, exercise any advantage or competencies of their jobs.
The fourth chapter of the law came under the title (electoral propaganda); The law has determined that propaganda is unrestricted; it begins after the announcement of the final lists of candidates, and ends twenty-four hours before the start of the election process; Election propaganda may not be carried out in a period other than the aforementioned period, or on the day of the election; The maximum expenditure for each candidate in electoral campaigns shall be two million riyals, and the maximum amount of such advertising expenditure may be modified by a decision of the Minister of Interior.
The municipalities shall determine the places for placing advertisements, posters, or electoral statements, and in these places, equal spaces shall be allocated to all candidates.
The Act enumerates the conditions that the candidate must abide by when practicing electoral propaganda, as follows:
1- Respect for the provisions of the Constitution.
2- Respect the freedom of others to express their opinion.
3- Preserving national unity and upholding communal security.
4- Not to carry out any electoral propaganda that involves deceiving the voters or using slander or defamation of others.
5- Not to use the official state emblem or its symbols in meetings, advertisements, electoral bulletins, or any kinds of writings and drawings used in electoral campaigns.
6- The advertisement design should not be, in terms of size, shape, and colors, like traffic signs, banners, or any other official sign.
7- Not to violate the standards, measurements, or dimensions set by the municipalities.
8- The means of electoral campaigning shall not obstruct traffic or pedestrians, or lead to blocking or disabling the functions of traffic lights, or obstructing rescue instruments.
9- Obtaining the written consent of the property owner, or their representative, if the advertising medium will be installed on a real estate not owned by the candidate.
10- If the advertisement will be installed on a real estate, then the advertising medium must not pose a danger to the beneficiaries of the real estate, or cause them any harm or disturb their comfort, and the advertising medium must not obstruct vision or block ventilation outlets.
11- The installation of advertising means shall not cause any damage to public utilities, or endanger the lives of individuals or property, or conflict with the aesthetic character of the area, or disturb the public view.
Likewise, the law enumerates the following prohibiting a candidate when practicing electoral propaganda:
1- Holding a general election meeting or gathering, except after notifying the security department in whose jurisdiction the meeting or gathering place is located, the place and time of the meeting or gathering, as well as the names of the speakers, provided that such meetings or gatherings do not continue after 11 pm.
2 – including any means in the electoral propaganda that agitate any tribal or sectarian tendencies, or what contradicts with public morals, the prevailing traditions, or the religious and social values of the society.
3- The offence against any other candidate or incite tribal or sectarian strife among citizens in any way.
4- The usage of State-owned means and tools in electoral campaigning.
5- The Infringement on the electoral campaigning means of others in any way, whether by striking out, tearing up, sabotaging, or blocking.
The law also prohibits organizing and holding electoral meetings, giving speeches, or placing posters, advertisements, or pictures in the following places:
1- Houses of worship and religious centers.
2- Educational facilities.
3- Governmental facilities, buildings, and facilities.
4- Establishments and buildings of an archaeological or historical nature and the surrounding walls.
5- Inside the election hall, or outside the electoral headquarters, within less than two hundred meters.
After the application of the general conditions stipulated by the law for both the voter and the candidate, and after the election campaigning process has been completed with all its conditions; The election procedure process begins; Through a committee called the “election committee”, formed for each electoral district; chaired by a judge selected by the Supreme Judicial Council, and two members, one from the Ministry of Interior and the other from the Ministry of Justice, and their nominations are issued by a the Minister of Interior decision; The committee is responsible for conducting the polling process, counting the votes and announcing the result at the electoral district center. The Minister of Interior may form one or more subcommittees in the electoral district.
The law referred to a very important thing, which is that voting is a personal right, and it is not permissible to mandate or delegate it. Each voter must exercise their electoral right themselves at the electoral center of their electoral district; Directly and secretly.
After completing provisions relating to the voter and the candidate in the second and third chapters; The Act stipulates that in the event of missing one of the conditions that a voter or candidate must meet, in the period between the announcement of the final lists of voters and the final lists of candidates, and the date of the election, the Department of Elections affiliated to the Ministry of Interior refers the matter to the Voters Committee or the Candidates Committee, in order to consider excluding the voter or candidate from the list they belong to.
The voter must hand over their identity card to the election committee to verify their data and to be registered in the voters’ list; The Election Committee hands each voter a voting card, and the voter has to step down to the designated place for voting inside the election hall, cast their vote on the card in front of the name of the person he wishes to vote for, and place it in the closed box designated for that.
The voter who cannot cast their vote on the election card may cast it in such a way that only the chairperson and members of the committee or one of them can hear it, one of the committee members records the voter’s vote on the card and places it in the box. In general, the law prohibits the voter from taking a photo of the election card or taking it out from the election commission center.
The law allows the candidate to enter the election hall and follow the progress of the electoral process. He may assign one of the voters from the electoral district to do so. The agency request is submitted in writing to the partial department on the form prepared for this purpose, Non-voters and candidates or their agents may not enter the election hall, except with the permission of the head of the committee, and it is not permitted to carry weapons inside the hall, whether the weapon is visible or concealed, even with a license to carry it. and any tool included in Law No (14) of 1999 regarding weapons, ammunition, and explosives is considered a weapon.
After the end of the polling process, the election committee counts the votes and issues a report with the result of the counting to be signed by the head and members of the committee. The head of the committee announces the result. The candidates or their agents have the right to attend the counting process and announcements, except for the committee’s deliberations.
The election committee decides on all issues related to the election process and the validity or invalidity of each voter’s vote. The law has decided invalidity of election card in one of the following cases:
1- If the voting card used is different from the approved voting cards.
2- If it is not signed or stamped with the seal of the election committee.
3- If it does not include the selection of any candidate or includes the selection of more than the number required to be elected.
4- If the voter’s card bears any sign indicating their identity.
5- If the voter’s card bears a sign or an insulting or sarcasm phrase.
6- If the vote is conditional.
7- If it is not possible to determine the name of the candidate for whom the vote was cast.
8- Any other reason that the committee deems sufficient to invalidate an election card.
Then comes the Minister of Interior or his representative’s turn to announce the general result of the elections, according to the final results approved by the election committees, and no other results announced by any means are considered, and the names of the winners of the Shura Council membership are published in the Official Gazette.
Subsequently, each candidate may challenge the validity of the election that was conducted in his electoral district before the Court of Cassation, within ten days from the date of the election result announcement; The Court of Cassation shall decide on the objection within sixty days from the date of its submittance. If the Court of Cassation proves the validity of the appeal, it may rule that the candidate whose election was validly elected shall win, in case the reasons and circumstances of the appeal do not require re-election in the electoral district.
The law stipulates in Chapter VII of it the penalties for violating the provisions of the Shura Council Elections Law, or related to other punitive laws; Every candidate demands or accepts or receives movable or immovable funds, directly or indirectly, or obtains an advantage or benefit from any foreign person or any foreign entity, to support him or finance his electoral campaign, Shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, and a fine not exceeding (10,000,000) ten million riyals, or by one of these two penalties; In addition to the confiscation of the funds and benefits obtained, he shall be judged for re-election in the event that this candidate wins the elections in the district in which he candidate for.
Also, a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to one million QAR or one of these penalties, shall be imposed on everyone who:
1- embezzled, seized, concealed, executed, corrupted, or unlawfully published the voter list or any other paper related to the election process or changed the election result in any way.
2- Seized or destroyed the box containing the voting cards.
3- Organized or participated in organizing or calling for any elections that take place informally before the date fixed for the election, to choose one or more among those belonging to a certain group.
4- Gave another person, offered, or obligated him to give him a benefit for himself or for others, compelling him to cast his vote in a private way, or to abstain from it.
5- Accepted or requested a benefit for himself or for others in return for casting or abstaining from his vote.
6- Used force or threats to prevent another voter from using his electoral right, or to force him to vote in a certain way, or to abstain from voting.
7- Violated the freedom of the election or its system or participated in gatherings or demonstrations with the intention of that.
8- Entered the voting hall carrying a weapon, even if he was authorized to carry it; In addition to the aforementioned penalty, the confiscation of all the crime means according to circumstances.
The law also stipulates a penalty of imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, and a fine of not more than one hundred thousand riyals, or one of these two penalties, against whoever:
1- Intentionally listed or not listed a name on the voters’ list in violation of the provisions of this law.
2- Included their name or the name of another in the voter’s list without fulfilling the required conditions while he was aware of that, or he reached, in a manner, that another name was not included or deleted.
3- Printed or published papers for electoral propaganda without including the name of the printer or publisher.
4- Cast their vote in the election knowing that their name was unjustly included in the voters’ list or that he has lost any of the conditions for registration in the list.
5- Used someone else’s name to vote.
6- Published or broadcasted among the voter’s false news about the behavior or morals of one of the candidates with the intention of influencing the election result.
7- Entered the election hall unnecessarily and did not leave despite the issuance of an order to that effect from the head of the committee.
Then the law stipulates that the lawsuit shall expire, and the civil lawsuit shall not be heard in the crimes stipulated in this law after the lapse of six months from the day of the election result announcement or the date of the last procedure related to the investigation, with the exception of the crimes stipulated in Article (48) of this law punishable by imprisonment not exceeding five years and a fine not exceeding ten million riyals.
Author: MR. MOHANAD BABIKER\ Senior Legal Consultant