Qatar's constitution was ratified by public referendum in 2003, and went into effect in 2005. This constitution indicates that Qatar is an independent sovereign state, its religion is Islam, its political system is democratic, Shari 'a law is its main source of legislation, and its official language is Arabic.
It also indicates the people are the source of power in Qatar, and government is based on the separation of powers. It protects freedom of expression, the press and religion, the right to education, safeguards equal digits, and protects private ownership. Finally, it provides for the establishment of the Advisory Council.
Qatar has a unicameral Advisory Council or Majils al-Shura with 45 seats. Thirty members are elected to the Advisory Council by popular vote, and 15 are appointed. There are no political parties or leaders in Qatar. Only persons of Qatari nationality may hold Ministerial posts.
This Advisory Council has limited legislative authority to draft and approve laws in Qatar. The Amir has the final say on all legislative matters in the country. After Qatar's 2013 elections, the Advisory Council will have the authority to approve the country's national budget, hold ministers accountable through non-confidence votes, and propose legislation.
Qatar also has a Municipal Council, which is comprised of 29 elected members representing constituencies from the more than 230 regions of the country. It is an independence entity that determines its own program and budget, and makes recommendations to government ministries. Regular council meetings are held in public in Doha every two weeks. The State of Qatar offers further information about the council on its site: http://english.mofa.gov.qa/details.cfm?id=41.
The government of Qatar is an emirate (or principality), a Muslim monastic dynasty ruled by an emir/Amir. Its chief of state since 1995 is Amir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The Amir also holds the positions of Minister of Defense and Commander-in-Chief of Qatar's Armed Forces. The Amir's fourth son, Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, was selected heir apparent in 2003.
The Al Thani family has ruled Qatar since the mid-1800's. In the 1980s and 1990s Qatar's economy was crippled by a continuous siphoning of its oil and natural gas revenues by the Amir, who had ruled the country since 1972. His son, the current Amir, overthrew his father in a bloodless coup in 1995.
The head of Qatar's government (since 2007) is Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabir Al Thani. The country's cabinet of ministers is appointed by the Amir.
The legal voting age in Qatar is 18, and both men and women have the right to vote. However, expatriate residents do not have the right to vote in Qatar.
Qatar's legal system is a mix of civil and Islamic law (applicable in family and personal matters). All judges are appointed by Amiri Decree based on the recommendation of the Supreme Judiciary Council, and serve renewable three-year terms.
The State of Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides English information about the political system in Qatar.
Doha does not have a municipal government or city hall. All government matters are handled at a national level.
Islam is the official religion of Qatar. Islamic instruction is compulsory for Muslims at state-sponsored schools. There are more Sunnites than Shiites in Qatar.
Over 10% of the country's residents practice other faiths and expatriate communities have established a variety of denominations in which to worship in the city of Doha. To find a place/group of worship:
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