Local Government History
The small nation of Qatar has relatively little need for decentralization. With a domestic population of fewer than 200,000 citizens, national government institutions can achieve transparency, accountability, and participation through proper administration. The Municipality of Doha (Ad Dawhah), founded in 1963, was defined by Law No (16) of the year 1988 to cover a total area about 7 square miles. The first democratic municipal elections in Qatar’s history were held in March 1999 to elect the Central Municipal Council.
Qatar is divided into ten administrative districts or 10 municipalities; Ad Dawhah, Al Ghuwayriyah, Al Jumayliyah, Al Khawr, Al Wakrah, Ar Rayyan, Jarayan al Batinah, Madinat ash Shamal, Umm Sa'id, Umm Salal
Municipal and Local Government Budgets
In 1999 the Central Municipal Council was created as a single, nationwide municipal body. This council is comprised of 29 members elected from districts around the nation. The Central Municipal Council is responsible for “supervising implementation of laws and resolutions concerning the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture (MMAA). Although exercising no formal authority over policy, the Council provides consultation and advice to the ministry. The minister of municipal affairs and agriculture can dissolve the council at his discretion.
Local Government Budgetary Reform
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture is part of the cabinet, with the minister appointed by the Emir. The ministry oversees administration of planning, development, road maintenance, agriculture, food safety, public services, and the environment. An assistant secretary of municipal affairs coordinates the ten administrative districts of Qatar. Due to Qatar’s heavy reliance on petroleum profits for government revenues, local development projects are dependent on oil prices and the national balance of payments. After budget cuts in the late 1990’s, rising oil prices and resultant budget surpluses dramatically increased development funding in the past few years. Annual capital expenditures rose by 200% over the period from 1999 to 2003.
The third elections to the Municipal Council in Qatar took place on April 1, 2007. 28,153 citizens voted for 116 candidates, including 3 women, contesting 29 seats. The participation rate was 51.1%. The Ministry of Civil Service gave government employees a day-off to enable them to vote. Elections were conducted under judicial supervision. The National Human Rights Committee mobilized 4 teams to monitor the integrity of elections in 27 electoral districts. Two candidates were uncontested in their districts. One female candidate, Shaikha Al Jufairi, defeated her two male opponents by winning 90% of votes in her district. That was the second time that she won a municipal seat, although she was uncontested in the 2003 elections, when she became the first Qatari female to occupy such a position. The Municipal Council has no executive powers. Its powers are supervisory and advisory. The Council cooperates with the Ministry of Municipality in improving the standard of services of importance to citizens such infrastructure projects. Earlier elections to the Municipal Council took place in 1999 and in 2003. On April 7, 2003, 78 candidates contested 29 seats. In general, public enthusiasm for the elections was lower than in 1999. Voter turnout plummeted to around 30% of eligible voters, down from 55% in the previous elections.