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Qatar To Set Up Elected Parliament

November 16, 1998

DOHA, Qatar (AP) _ Qatar’s ruler on Monday announced plans for an elected parliament.

Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said the elected legislature would be incorporated into the country’s upcoming constitution by a committee that he has empowered to work on the matter.

An elected parliament, which would give men and women the right to vote and run for office, would be the only one of its kind in the Persian Gulf.

In the conservative, oil-rich region, only Kuwait has an elected parliament, although women there are not eligible to vote or run for office.

Sheik Hamad seized power from his conservative father in a bloodless palace coup in 1995 and promised to liberalize the country. He has since introduced a temporary constitution and lifted press censorship, allowing newspapers to criticize ministers and government policies.

He has also taken steps for the country’s first-ever elections for a municipal council to be held in February. The 29-member council will have an advisory role and its resolutions will be non-binding.

Qatar, a small emirate on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula, has not allowed popular participation in decision-making since its independence from Britain in 1971. Before coming under British occupation, the country was a largely tribal and nomadic society.

Qatar now has an advisory council that is appointed by the emir but the council lacks legislative powers.

Some 600,000 people live in Qatar _ about 450,000 of them foreigners, mostly laborers from the Indian subcontinent.

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