Politics of Qatar

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politics and government of

The political system of Qatar is an absolute monarchy, with the Emir of Qatar as head of state and head of government. Under the 2003 constitutional referendum it should become a constitutional monarchy.[1] Sharia Law is the main source of Qatari legislation according to Qatar's Constitution.[2][3]

Sharia law is the main source of Qatari legislation according to Qatar's Constitution.[2][3] Sharia law is applied to laws pertaining to family law, inheritance, and several criminal acts (including adultery, robbery and murder). In some cases in Sharia-based family courts, a female's testimony is worth half a man's and in some cases a female witness is not accepted at all.[4] Codified family law was introduced in 2006. In practice, Qatar's legal system is a mixture of civil law and Islamic law.[5][6]

Flogging is used in Qatar as a punishment for alcohol consumption or illicit sexual relations.[7] Article 88 of Qatar's criminal code declares the punishment for adultery is 100 lashes.[8] Adultery is punishable by death when a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man are involved.[8] In 2006, a Filipino woman was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery.[8] In 2010, at least 18 people (mostly foreign nationals) were sentenced to flogging of between 40 and 100 lashes for offences related to “illicit sexual relations” or alcohol consumption.[9] In 2011, at least 21 people (mostly foreign nationals) were sentenced to floggings of between 30 and 100 lashes for offences related to “illicit sexual relations” or alcohol consumption.[9] In 2012, six expatriates were sentenced to floggings of either 40 or 100 lashes.[7] Only Muslims considered medically fit were liable to have such sentences carried out. It is unknown if the sentences were implemented.[10] More recently in April 2013, a Muslim expatriate was sentenced to 40 lashes for alcohol consumption.[11][12][13] In June 2014, a Muslim expatriate was sentenced to 40 lashes for consuming alcohol and driving under the influence.[14] Judicial corporal punishment is common in Qatar due to the Hanbali interpretation of Sharia Law.

Stoning is a legal punishment in Qatar.[15] Apostasy is a crime punishable by the death penalty in Qatar.[16] Blasphemy is punishable by up to seven years in prison and proselytizing can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.[16] Homosexuality is a crime punishable by the death penalty for Muslims.[17]

Alcohol consumption is partially legal in Qatar, some five-star luxury hotels are allowed to sell alcohol to their non-Muslim customers.[18][19] Muslims are not allowed to consume alcohol in Qatar and Muslims caught consuming alcohol are liable to flogging or deportation. Non-Muslim expatriates can obtain a permit to purchase alcohol for personal consumption. The Qatar Distribution Company (a subsidiary of Qatar Airways) is permitted to import alcohol and pork; it operates the one and only liquor store in the country, which also sells pork to holders of liquor licences.[20] Qatari officials have also indicated a willingness to allow alcohol in "fan zones" at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.[21]

Until recently, restaurants on the Pearl-Qatar (a man-made island near Doha) were allowed to serve alcoholic drinks.[18][19] In December 2011, however, restaurants on the Pearl were told to stop selling alcohol.[18][22] No explanation was given for the ban.[18][19] Speculation about the reason includes the government's desire to project a more pious image in advance of the country's first election of a royal advisory body and rumours of a financial dispute between the government and the resort's developers.[22]

In 2014, Qatar launched a modesty campaign to remind tourists of the modest dress code.[23] Female tourists are advised not to wear leggings, miniskirts, sleeveless dresses and short or tight clothing in public. Men are advised against wearing only shorts and singlets.[24]

As of 2014, certain provisions of the Qatari Criminal Code allows punishments such as flogging and stoning to be imposed as criminal sanctions. The UN Committee Against Torture found that these practices constituted a breach of the obligations imposed by the UN Convention Against Torture.[25][26] Qatar retains the death penalty, mainly for threats against national security.

Under the provisions of Qatar's sponsorship law, sponsors have the unilateral power to cancel workers' residency permits, deny workers' ability to change employers, report a worker as "absconded" to police authorities, and deny permission to leave the country.[27] As a result, sponsors may restrict workers’ movements and workers may be afraid to report abuses or claim their rights.[27] According to the ITUC, the visa sponsorship system allows the exaction of forced labour by making it difficult for a migrant worker to leave an abusive employer or travel overseas without permission.[28] Qatar also does not maintain wage standards for its immigrant labour. Qatar commissioned international law firm DLA Piper to produce a report investigating the immigrant labour system. In May 2014 DLA Piper released over 60 recommendations for reforming the kafala system including the abolition of exit visas and the introduction of a minimum wage which Qatar has pledged to implement.[29]

Cases of ill-treatment of immigrant labour have been observed. The Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, described the emirate as an "open jail".[30] Qatar does not have national occupational health standards or guidelines, and workplace injuries are the third highest cause of accidental deaths.[31] In May 2012, Qatari officials declared their intention to allow the establishment of an independent trade union.[32] Qatar also announced it will scrap its sponsor system for foreign labour, which requires that all foreign workers be sponsored by local employers, who in some cases hold workers' passports and can deny them permission to change jobs.[32]

Executive branch

In Qatar, the ruling Al Thani (ال ثاني) family continued to hold power following the declaration of independence in 1971. The head of state is the Emir, and the right to rule Qatar is passed on within the Al Thani family. Politically, Qatar is evolving from a traditional society into a modern welfare state. Government departments have been established to meet the requirements of social and economic progress. The Basic Law of Qatar 1970 institutionalized local customs rooted in Qatar's conservative Islamic heritage, granting the Emir preeminent power. The Emir's role is influenced by continuing traditions of consultation, rule by consensus, and the citizen's right to appeal personally to the Emir. The Emir, while directly accountable to no one, cannot violate the Sharia (Islamic law) and, in practice, must consider the opinions of leading notables and the religious establishment. Their position was institutionalized in the Advisory Council, an appointed body that assists the Emir in formulating policy. There is no electoral system. Political parties are banned.

The influx of expatriate Arabs has introduced ideas that call into question the tenets of Qatar's traditional society, but there has been no serious challenge to Al Thani rule.

In February 1972, the heir apparent and Prime Minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, deposed his cousin, Emir Ahmad, and assumed power. This move was supported by the key members of Al Thani and took place without violence or signs of political unrest.

On 27 June 1995, the heir apparent, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, deposed his father, Emir Khalifa, in a bloodless coup.[33] Emir Hamad and his father reconciled in 1996. Increased freedom of the press followed, and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television channel (founded late 1996) is widely regarded as an example of an uncensored source of news in Arab countries. However, the network has been met with negative responses by the governments of many Arab states.[34]

On 25 June 2013 Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani became the Emir of Qatar after his father Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani handed over power in a televised speech.[35]

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani 25 June 2013
Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani 25 June 2013


Source: Ministry of Interior[36]

Consultative Assembly

The Consultative Assembly (Majlis as-Shura) has 35 appointed members with only consultative tasks. However, the 2003 Constitution of Qatar calls for a 45-member elected Legislature, which is to be made up of 30 elected representatives and 15 appointed by the Emir. In 2006, Prime Minister Al Thani – then the Deputy PM – announced that elections would be held in 2007. However, only a legislative council to review the subject was created that year. The actual elections have been postponed three times; most recently in June 2010,[37] when the Emir extended the Consultative Assembly's tenure until 2013.[38]

 Composition of the Consultative Assembly of Qatar
Members Seats
Appointed members 35
Total 35

Political parties and elections

Election billboards advertising the 2007 municipal elections.

Qatar held a constitutional referendum in 2003, which was overwhelmingly supported. The first municipal elections with men and women voters and candidates were held in 2007 and 2011. The first legislative election, for two thirds of the legislative council's 45 seats, are planned for 2016.[39]

Suffrage is currently limited to municipal elections and two thirds of the seats in the legislative council, with the voting age set at 18. Expatriate residents are excluded, as are the vast number of residents who are prevented from applying for citizenship. The elected Municipal Council has no executive powers but may offer advice to the Minister.

Human rights

Main article: Human rights in Qatar

The Qatari authorities keep a relatively tight rein on freedom of expression.[40] The Freedom in the World 2015 report by Freedom House lists Qatar as "Not Free", and on a 1–7 scale (1 being the most "free") rates the country a 6 for political rights and 5 for civil liberties.[41] As of 2014, the Democracy Index describes Qatar as an "authoritarian regime" with a score of 3.18 out of ten, and it ranks 136th out of the 167 countries covered.[42]

Administrative divisions

There are 7 municipalities (baladiyat, singular - baladiyah) of Qatar; Ad Dawhah, Al Daayen, Al Rayyan, Al Khor, Al Wakrah, Al Rayyan, Madinat ash Shamal, and Umm Salal. Each municipality assumes administrative responsibilities over zones (cities and districts) within their boundaries.[43]

Foreign relations

On October 10, 2005, for the first time, Qatar was elected to a two-year term on the UN Security Council for 2006–2007.

According to BBC, in April 2006 Qatar announced that it will give US$50 million (£28 million) to the new Hamas-led Palestinian government. Hamas, an ally of Iran and Hezbollah, is considered by the US and the EU to be a terrorist organization.

In May 2006, Qatar pledged more than $100 million to Hurricane Katrina relief to colleges and universities in Louisiana affected by the hurricane. Some of this money was also distributed to families looking to repair damaged homes by Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans, Inc.

With the advent of the Arab Spring in 2011, Qatar has been seen as meddling in the affairs of other Arab countries, supporting insurgents, generally and increasingly radical Islamists and Salafists.[44] This policy has led to rebukes by neighboring Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.[44] Qatar joined NATO operations in Libya and reportedly armed Libyan opposition groups.[45] It is also became a major provider of money and support for rebel groups in the Syrian civil war.[46] With close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood the emirate's funding for rebels strongly favored Islamic and Salafist forces in both Libya and Syria.[44]

The government of Qatar owns the Al Jazeera television network. The network has been accused of being biased and taking an active role in the affairs of other countries specifically during the Arab Spring in 2011.[47] Numerous countries have complained about biased reporting in support of Qatar policy.

Most of the developed countries (plus Brunei and Indonesia) are exempt from visa requirements. Citizens of exempted countries can also request a joint visa that allows them to travel to Oman as well.[48]

Qatar is member of ABEDA, AFESD, AL, AMF, ESCWA, FAO, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDB, IFAD, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, and WTO.


  1. It is technically a constitutional monarchy, as it has a constitution. Despite this, it is absolute in practise.[1]


  1. 1 2 Cavendish, Marshall. World and Its Peoples: Arabian Peninsula. p. 64.
  2. 1 2 "The Permanent Constitution of the State of Qatar". Government of Qatar.
  3. 1 2 "Constitution of Qatar". According to Article 1: Qatar is an independent Arab country. Islam is its religion and Sharia law is the main source of its legislation.
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  25. Kelly, Tobias (2009). "The UN Committee against Torture: Human Rights Monitoring and the Legal Recognition of Cruelty". Human Rights Quarterly. 313 (3): 777–800. doi:10.1353/hrq.0.0094.
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  36. http://www.moi.gov.qa/site/english/links/index.html
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