Who Rules Qatar? What political system is there in Qatar, who makes the laws, and do they have democratic elections?

The spotlight is on Qatar like never before thanks to the FIFA World Cup – with the football often overshadowed by the politics of the tiny country.

Located on the Persian Gulf, Qatar is a small country of just under three million people, around 300,000 or whom at Qatari citizens.

The entire country is only around 10 times the size of New York City, but it’s vast wealth due to huge oil and natural gas reserves means that it has the fourth-highest GDP in the world.

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The decision to allow Qater to host the FIFA World Cup – despite the country having never even qualified for the tournament – has proven controversial due to the politics and laws of the country.

So how is Qatar run and who makes the laws?

When did Qatar become an independent country?

Qatar only became fully independent in 1971, before which it had been a British protectorate, and earlier still was part of the Ottoman Empire.

The creation of the modern country began when the British signed a treaty in 1868 that recognised it as a separate state, with a further treaty in 1916 allowing it control over internal matters (though maintaining UK control over foreign affairs and defence). On September 3, 1971, that treaty was terminated due to being "inconsistent with full international responsibility as a sovereign and independent state" and Qatar became a fully-autonomous country.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has near absolute power in the country currently hosting the FIFA World Cup.Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has near absolute power in the country currently hosting the FIFA World Cup.
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has near absolute power in the country currently hosting the FIFA World Cup.

Who rules Qatar?

Qatar has been a hereditary monarchy under the House of Thani since Mohammed bin Thani signed the treaty with the British in 1868, being controlled by a succession of emirs who act as both head of state and chief executive.

The current Emir is Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani who, under the Constitution of Qatar, holds almost all executive and legislative powers, including controlling the judiciary.

He was educated in Britain and took over from his father a decade ago.

Does Qatar have a Prime Minister?

As well as the Emir, Qatar also has a Prime Minister – currently Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdul Aziz Al Thani – who heads up a cabinet who deal with the day-to-day running of the country.

Both the Prime Minster and the cabinet are appointed by the Emir.

Does Qatar have elections?

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Under the Constitution of Qater, elections are held to vote on two-thirds of the country’s Consultative Assembly, who are able block legislation with a simple majority vote, or dismiss ministers with a two-thirds vote.

The remaining one-third of the Consultative Assembly is appointed by the Emir.

The first election was scheduled to take place in 2013 but was delayed until October 2, 2021, with political parties banned and all candidates running independently. No women were elected and, according to Human Rights Watch, thousands of Qataris were excluded from voting.

How are the laws of Qatar made?

According to Qatar's Constitution, Sharia law (a body of religious law that forms part of the Islamic tradition) is the main source of Qatari legislation and the Emir must consult with religious leaders on legal issues.

In practice Sharia law is mainly used in family law, inheritance law, and a number of criminal acts, including adultery, robbery, and murder.

Corporal punishment is still used in Qatar, with the judiciary sentencing people to flogging for alcohol consumption or illicit sexual relations. The criminal code dictates that the punishment for adultery is 100 lashes – or death if a non-Muslim man is involved.

Homosexuality for Muslims is punishable by the death penalty, as is apostacy (abandoning or renunciating the Muslim faith), while blasphemy is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

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