Qatarishave voted to elect members to the Gulf state's municipal council in whatis seen as a preparation for the country's first parliamentaryelections.
Votingbegan at 7am (0500 GMT) and closed at 5pm (1500 GMT). Results aredue late on Sunday.
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The elections come ahead of the country's first partiallegislative polls, expected to be announced later this year by Sheik Hamad BinKhalifa Al Thani, the emir of
Three women and 122 men are running for seats on the centralmunicipal council, a 29-member chamber with advisory powers.
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The councilwas created in 1999 with
More than28,000 citizens are registered to vote in the emirate, which has an indigenouspopulation of 174,000 out of 750,000 inhabitants.
Sawsan AbuHamda, Al Jazeera's correspondent in
"[Qatarishope] the council will better services for the citizens in the near futureparticularly following the criticism it has received during the past fewyears," she added.
Nightlyelection rallies have been held since campaigning began on March 8, withaudiences listening to speeches by government officials, legal experts,candidates, voters and journalists.
Many peoplehave publicly criticised the outgoing council and the shortcomings of
Many of theelection manifestos feature promises to tackle everyday issues such asimproving the quality of
Governmentofficials say the election will be closely monitored to see how womencandidates fare.
Eighty percent of
Qataricitizens of 18 years and older can cast ballots. Qataris with less than 10years citizenship cannot vote.
With atleast half the population being under 18, this leaves the country with about28,000 registered voters, almost half of whom are women.
"Weare in the process of learning. Democracy cannot be achieved overnight,"said Sheik Khalid Bin Jabor Al Thani, a member of
"Untila few years back, people would not dare express their opinions in public. Todaythey freely criticise the government."
Observerssay the municipal council vote will encourage theeventual election and operation of a transparent governing body thatallows public debate and input.
A 2003vote approved a new constitution leading to the eventual creation of aparliament.
Thenational legislature would be partially elected by the people and partiallyappointed by the emir.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16