A unicameral Advisory Council of 35 members assists the Emir of Qatar. The members of the Council are nominated from among landowners, farmers, businessmen, and notables for their good judgment and competence. Since 1970 their terms have been extended every four years. The Council was established with a purely advisory role by the provisional constitution of 1970 and was first convened in 1972. A new constitution, approved in 2003, makes the Advisory Council a partially elected body with legislative powers. The Council will be enlarged to 45 members, two-thirds of whom will be popularly elected for four-year terms. The remainder will be appointed by the Emir.
The 2003 constitution greatly expands the role of the Advisory Council. Previously, the Council could only comment on proposed laws, and its agenda was fixed by the Emir. The Council will now possess powers of executive oversight, and will have authority to propose, debate and pass legislation in consultation with the government. Any member of the Advisory Council can address a question to the Prime Minister. One-third of the members of the Council can address an interpellation to an individual minister in the government, after which a vote of no confidence can be taken. If such a vote passes with a two-thirds majority, the minister is immediately removed from duty. The Advisory Council amends and approves the annual budget, and may not adjourn each year until a budget law is passed.
Sessions, Dissolution, State of Exception
The Advisory Council meets in ordinary sessions for eight months of each year, beginning in October. The Emir summons and adjourns all sessions of the Advisory Council, and he or his representative addresses the Council at the opening of each session. The Emir may postpone a session of the Advisory Council, but only for one month, and only once during an annual term. Extraordinary sessions can be called by the Emir or by a majority of the members of the Council. During an extraordinary session, no issues may be discussed save those for which the session was called. All sittings of the Advisory Council are public, unless otherwise requested by the government or by one-third of the members of the Council.
The Emir may dissolve the Advisory Council by means of a decree stating the reasons for dissolution. New elections must be held within six months of dissolution, and the Council may not be dissolved for the same reason twice. The government and the Emir assume legislative powers during the intervening period. In the case of a decree of martial law, the Council must be notified as to the reasons for the decree, measures taken in response, and the term within which martial law shall be exercised. The Advisory Council continues to meet under such circumstances, and must approve any extension of martial law beyond the term specified in the decree.
The current Advisory Council consists of a Presidency, the Council's Office and the Council's committees. The current speaker of the Council is Muhammad bin Mubarak al-Khulaify. Under the 2003 constitution, the Council will elect a Speaker and Deputy Speaker at the beginning of each of its four-year terms. The Speaker chairs Council meetings, and heads the bureau of the Council, composed of the Speaker, his deputy, and the chairs of committees. The Speaker is also empowered to cast a tie-breaking vote.
Committee Structures and Membership
The constitution grants the Advisory Council the right to form committees as necessary. The current committees include the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee, the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee, the Public Services and Utilities Affairs Committee, the Domestic and Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Cultural Affairs and Information Committee. Each committee must have at least five members and each member of the Council must serve on at least one committee. Committee meetings and debates are held behind closed doors. A member of the Advisory Council may voice his opinions on issues freely.
Legislative Drafting Processes
Prior to the 2003 constitution, the Advisory Council could only issue recommendations with regard to proposed legislation. Once the new constitution takes effect, individual members of the Council will be able to propose legislation to the relevant committee within the Council, and committees will be able to generate draft laws. These laws must be submitted to the government for study and consultation, and the government must give its recommendation during the same term or the following term. The government may also initiate legislation. Once a bill is passed, it must be ratified by the Emir, who may return the bill to the Council. If the Council passes the bill a second time with a two-thirds majority, then the Emir must promulgate it as law. If it does not pass, it cannot be brought up again in the same term.
The Advisory Council is a member of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU).