Qatari academics and experts in the constitutional law asserted that marking the 20th anniversary of the referendum on the permanent constitution of the State of Qatar is a cherished memory, a source of pride and an auspicious step by the state's leadership and people.
In exclusive statements to Qatar News Agency (QNA), they said that the high turnout at the ballot boxes for the referendum on the draft permanent constitution of the state on April 29, 2003, is a reminiscent of the extent to which citizens responded to the call of the wise leadership. Experts of the constitutional law pointed out that the permanent constitution granted the Shura Council a wide legislative jurisdiction, outlined some constitutional tools to monitor the government's performance such as questioning and interrogation, as well as underscoring the council's role in approving the general budget.
In the same context, articles 137 and 140 affirmed the designation of the entities responsible for adjudicating administrative and constitutional disputes to promote and guarantee the right to litigation. They outlined that the constitutional referendum is one of the democratic techniques through which the constitution is issued, and paves the way for the people to widely achieve a real popular participation, as the implementation of the constitution in question is essentially based on a "yes" vote for the constitution.
Dean of College of Law at Qatar University Dr. Talal Abdullah Al Emadi said that the high turnout of people to cast their vote for the referendum on the draft permanent constitution of the state of Qatar was 96.6 percent of the vote after twenty years have passed, which is a reminiscent of the extent to which loyal citizens responded to the call of their leaders in Qatar, in addition to the impact of this referendum in preparing the Qatari people for democracy simultaneously, with subsequent initiatives in the elected Municipal Council and Shura Council.
Since he and others are working in the field of law at the College of Law at Qatar University and as citizens, Dr. Al Emadi indicated that such anniversary is cherished by them, which is actually a source of pride and an auspicious step by the state's leadership and people, which made Qatar a pioneer country in the region in this field. He quoted from the articles of the constitution, the article 57 which states that respect for the constitution, compliance with laws issued by the public authority, adherence to public order and public morals, and observance of national traditions and established customs, are incumbent on all those who live in the State of Qatar or settle in its territory.
The college significantly prioritizes the field of the constitutional law, including all relevant courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate studies levels, since they are closely related to local developments and awareness of the local constitution and its constant developments, Dr. Al Emadi emphasized. He pointed that the college has been keen to teach these courses in the original language of the state of Qatar, adding that Qatar is proud to have experts in constitutional law who represent the center of excellence in this field at the college.
He outlined the increasing interest of post-graduate students who primarily embark on completing PhD thesis in this vital and rich field, adding that they have recently named one of the college's halls as "The constitution hall" and will be opened soon.
Professor of law at Qatar University Hassan Abdulrahim Al Buhashim Al Sayed said that the State of Qatar knew the first codified constitutional document at the beginning of the seventies of the twentieth century, but before that there were some customary constitutional rules that settled regarding the inheritance of power and the exercise of power, including some other legislations pertaining to the organization of the supreme administration of the government, the procedures for issuing legislation, and the Shura Council Law of 1964 with which it can be said that there are constitutional rules, some of which are customary and others are written, but they are not codified in a single constitutional document.
The first codified constitution of the State of Qatar was in 1970, before independence, where Sheikh Ahmad bin Ali Al-Thani the ruler of the country at the time, issued the temporary statute of governance in Qatar, Al Sayed outlined, adding that the temporary constitution also called for the establishment of an elected Shura Council to discuss laws submitted by the government, emphasizing the independence of the judiciary.
He indicated that with the independence of the State of Qatar on Sept. 3,1971, it was imperative to amend the provisional statute to best suit the new conditions represented in the independence of the state and the termination of the 1916 agreement with Britain, so it was issued on April 19,1972, (the amended provisional statute). It makes this system temporary until some constitutional principles take hold after the independence experience.
In addition, the amended provisional statute remained in force until HH The Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani realized in the last years of the twentieth century that the time had come to create a permanent constitution for the country. He outlined the reasons that had prompted the country to create this constitution, including the fact that the country had gone through stages since the issuance of the provisional statute in successive stages in which the parameters and objectives of the state's policies and its Gulf, Arab and Islamic affiliations were determined. Moreover, the state's authorities and its various apparatuses gained expertise derived from actual practice at the internal and external levels, and the constitutional conditions that regulate the executive authority and the provisions related to succession of government in the state were completed.
Additionally, steps were taken towards completing the building of state apparatuses and laying the foundations of a state of institutions and law by issuing the Judicial Authority law and other laws regulating civil and commercial transactions.
His Highness realized that it was very critical to prepare the permanent constitution of the state after such things had been achieved to be in commensurate with Qatar's achievements; to further fulfil the aspirations and hopes while Qatar was at the gates of the twenty-first century to broaden the base of popular participation by establishing an elected parliament, Dr. Al Sayed added.
He said that His Highness issued the Amiri decision No. 11 of 1999 to form a permanent constitution drafting committee and assigned its terms of reference. The committee comprised 32 members, and Article (3) of the decision required that the draft constitution be prepared within three years. The decision also authorized the committee to invite whomever it wanted from experts and specialists to its meetings, and to establish sub-committees, each of which includes a contingent of experts and specialists to assist it in discharging its duties.
In 2002, the committee accomplished its mission of drafting the constitution during three years as required by the Amiri Decision. HH the Father Amir received the permanent constitution draft document on July 2, 2002, when His Highness met members of the constitution drafting committee.
On April 15, 2003, HH the Father Amir (then the Amir) issued the decree No. 38 of 2003, in which he called on the citizens to vote on the draft constitution in compliance with Allah, the Almighty saying: ''Counsel with them in the matter" as stated in the preamble of this decree.
Believing in the importance of popular participation in approving the state's constitution and the keenness to advance the country and its supremacy, in pursuit of better future for the current and future generations, this decree was charted to invite the citizens to vote for the draft constitution. The decree stated that the draft constitution shall be approved if endorsed by the majority of valid opinions as expressed in the referendum.
With broad participation, the referendum was held on April 29, 2003, and the result was in favor of the constitution by 96.64 percent of the votes.
In June 2004, HH the Father Amir issued the permanent constitution and was published on Jun. 8, 2005, and entered into force from the day following its publication. Its provisions came into effect, except the provisions related to the elected Shura Council.
On Oct. 2, 2021, the elections of Qatari Shura Council were held through which all constitution's articles were activated, especially articles of Chapter three of part four thereof; and this was done in the era of HH the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
In comparing the permanent constitution with the amended temporary statute, it is crystal clear that the permanent constitution had granted the Shura Council a wider legislative jurisdiction, underscoring some of the constitutional tools to monitor the government's performance such as questioning and interrogation, as well as underscoring the council's role in approving the general budget, Dr. Al Sayed clarified.
In the same context, articles 137 and 140 outlined the identification of the entities that undertake the adjudication of administrative and constitutional disputes to promote and guarantee the right to litigation.
Assistant Professor of Public Law at the College of Law of Qatar University Dr. Hamad Al Hababi said that the constitutional referendum is one of the democratic techniques through which the constitutions is issued, and paves the way for the people in order to achieve a real popular participation on large scale, in which the enforcement of the constitution is essentially based on "Yes" voting for the constitution.
Dr. Al Hababi added that some constitutional jurists believe that the founding referendum method is not deemed as fourth method of establishing constitutions, but rather a method of the constituent assembly. The referendum is defined as the popular participation with "Yes" or "No" voting to whether approve the state's constitution or not.
The opinion should be expressed orally for those who cannot read or write, the blind and others, including persons with special needs who cannot prove their opinions themselves on the referendum form, as the head of the referendum committee records the opinion on the form and puts it in the box, Dr. Al Hababi pointed out.
He indicated that the enforcement of the constitution is based on the approval of the majority of valid votes, as stated in article eleven, and the result of the general referendum shall be published in the official gazette.
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