Qatar: Country and Foreign Investment
Government and Judiciary
This page was last updated on 23 September 2020.
Despite some recent attempts at modernization, Qatar is still effectively an absolute monarchy. Both the head of state (the emir) and head of government (the prime minister) are always members of the ruling Al-Thani family. The current emir is Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and the prime minister is Abdallah bin Nasir bin Khalifa.
The emir is assisted by the Council of Ministers, which is responsible for proposing draft laws and regulations, carrying out state policies, and monitoring execution of the law, legal judgments and state expenditure.
The Advisory Council (Majlis ash-Shura) consists of 45 members, of whom 30 are (theoretically) elected and 15 appointed. Advisory Council members debate matters of public interest that the Council of Ministers submits to them; its views and recommendations are usually taken into account by the emir before he makes a final decision.
In 2013 Qatar had its first legislative elections; 30 members were elected by the public and 15 members were appointed by the Emir. However, since this time elections have been postponed.
Qatar is divided into nine municipalities: Doha (Ad-Dawhah), Al-Ghuwayriyah, Al-Jumayliyah, Al- Khawr, Al-Wakrah, Ar-Rayyan, Jarayan al-Batinah, Madinat ash-Shamal, and Umm Salal. In addition, Mesaieed is managed separately by Mesaieed Industrial City, which is a subsidiary of Qatar Petroleum.
Qatari law formerly operated on a two-tier system: Sharia (Islamic law) was administered at the local level, while the civil courts operated on the English model, a remnant of the time when Qatar was a British protectorate. Since 2004, Sharia has the principal source of legislation, which means that, for example, apostasy, homosexual sex and blasphemy are capital offences. However, the application of the law has been less severe than in other Gulf countries and until 2020 there was a 17-year moratorium on the death penalty.
According to the Qatari constitution, “its political system is democratic.” This is a long way from the truth, as the small proportion of the population that is allowed to vote for the country’s one assembly (which only has advisory powers anyway) has not been permitted to do so since 2013. Meanwhile, some of the working immigrants – recently including those who built World Cup football stadiums – have almost no legal rights.