Qatar holds elections for local council, its fifth such vote

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Voters in Qatar cast ballots on Wednesday for members of a municipal council, a rare election in the tiny but wealthy Gulf nation that will host the 2022 World Cup.

It was the fifth such election held in the history of Qatar, a rapidly developing oil and natural gas-rich country that is ruled by a hereditary emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Only five women were running among the 110 candidates vying for a spot in the 29-seat Central Municipal Council. The civic body deals with local issues, covers the whole country and is Qatar's only directly elected body.

Government officials urged the more than 21,000 registered voters to go to the polls, and authorities reported that more than half of them did so.

At a primary school that served as a polling place in the center of the capital, Doha, voters said they felt it was important to take part in the election.

"Participating in the electoral process like this shows political and social awareness," said voter Said Hussein Hajji.

Qatar began holding elections for the municipal council in 1999. The most recent vote took place in 2011, with only one woman, Sheikha Yousuf al-Jufairi, winning a seat.

Elections for the country's main legislative body, the Shura Council, had been expected in 2013 but never took place.

Voter Abdul Rahman al-Nabet said he hoped the municipal elections would lead to greater democratic opportunities.

"Participation in elections is a right I love to exercise and I hope in the future to participate in parliamentary elections," he said. "These things come step by step."

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