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Qatar’s Municipal elections came and went in mid-March attracting a lot of international attention, generating some excitement within the country and laying down an important, if undramatic, landmark in the progress of political reform in the Gulf. The participation of women as voters and candidates was the critical issue.As one might expect, bearing in mind the small numbers of voters and candidates, the elections ran smoothly and the turnout of registered voters was high; some 90-95% in Doha and 60-75% in rural areas.

Qatar
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Politics: Established by King Abdelaziz (Ibn Saud) in 1932, the kingdom – an absolute monarchy – is the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) giant in terms of population, territory, oil wealth and its claim to religious authority. Saudi Arabia is ruled by King Salman Bin Abdelaziz, Ibn Saud’s sixth son to assume the throne. At 82 on 31 December, Salman has broken with Al-Saud tradition to assure the succession of his line, replacing the experienced Mohammed Bin Nayef Bin Abdelaziz as crown prince with his favoured son, the now 32-year-old Mohammed Bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia
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Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, newly named Emir of Qatar, stands out not just because of the sleek manner of his accession, but because of his youth. Born on 3 June 1980, Tamim had only just celebrated his 33rd birthday when he assumed the role for which he has spent more than a decade preparing. In a culture where respect is very linked to age, holding his own among his senescent Gulf counterparts will require some steel. Three of the five other Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) heads of state are more than double his age; the closest in years, at 63, is Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa.

Qatar
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Politics: The Al-Khalifa family came to power in 1783, driving the Persian empire from the archipelago. The British empire, interested in maritime trade routes, entered into an alliance with the Al-Khalifa 200 years ago; only in 1971 did Bahrain declare independence. The constitution provided for a fully elected parliament, which was formed in 1973 but disbanded in 1975 after a period of repressive rule; a partially elected body was reinstated in 2002.

Bahrain
Issue 957 - 31 October 2013

Kuwait: Court adjourns Al-Barrak trial

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A court on 27 October again adjourned the trial of former MP Musallam Al-Barrak, this time until 7 January. Al-Barrak was sentenced to five years for his public criticism of Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah during an election rally in 2012. In May, the appeals court overturned that verdict and ordered a retrial (GSN 954/6).

Kuwait
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Amnesty International has raised concerns over the situation of Sheikh Salman Al-Awda, who was arrested in September and has been held in solitary confinement, unable to communicate with the outside world, since October. Amnesty said Al-Awda’s family had learnt on 16 January that he had been hospitalised in Jeddah, but had not received further details of his condition. The sheikh, who has a large following on social media, was arrested after tweeting that he hoped to see a resolution to the conflict with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia
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By playing a prominent role at the Syria Donors Conference in London in early February, Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah gave a timely reminder that, even at 86 years old, he can make an important contribution to public life. But at home, questions of succession are fueling growing hostility within the Al-Sabah family, with the potential for internal splits to spill over into wider political conflict. In the short term, they have already torpedoed the emirate’s sporting ambitions, with Kuwait likely to be excluded from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Kuwait
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Iran was declared an Islamic Republic in 1979, following the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Supreme Leader (Rahbar) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sits at the top of the political system, his power (in theory) checked by an elected president and parliament; the conflict between theocracy and democracy dictates much of the internal dynamic. The election of President Hassan Rouhani in June 2013, following the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, proved a transitional moment in the Islamic Republic’s external relations.

Iran
Issue 1034 - 23 March 2017

Iran’s election timetable

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Election hopefuls have a few more weeks to sort themselves out before Iran holds its 12th presidential election. Candidate nominations will open for five days from 11 April. That will be followed by a vetting process by the Guardian Council which will end on 26 April. Many names are likely to be excluded at this stage. The campaign proper will run from 27 April to 18 May. The first round of voting is due on 19 May.

Iran
Issue 941 - 21 February 2013

Iraq: Attack on Iranian dissidents

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An attack on a camp for Iranian dissidents in Baghdad in the early hours of 9 February killed six people and wounded more than 25. Members of Iran’s Mojahedin-e Khalq – also known as the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) – are housed at the former US military base Camp Hurriya and, according to police sources, were subjected to more than a dozen Katyusha rockets.

Iran | Iraq
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Emirati law firm Al-Tamimi & Company launched its 13th regional office, in Muscat, Oman, this week, continuing its expansion across the Middle East. An office in Erbil was opened in early October. Other recent entrants to Oman include Pennsylvania’s Duane Morris and London’s Addleshaw Goddard; both opened offices there this year. Observers may be interested to note that Adel, the elder brother of Al-Tamimi & Co founder Essam, in 2011 launched the first case against Oman under the Oman-US Free Trade Agreement of 2009. The case (Adel A Hamadi Al-Tamimi v Sultanate of Oman), at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, appears to be ongoing, with Oman filing a ‘counter-memorial’ in June. 


Oman
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Iran’s famously mercurial presidential elections proved as unpredictable as ever on 14 June, when the moderate conservative cleric Hassan Rouhani swept to victory, winning over 50% of the vote in a poll that also saw an unexpectedly high turnout of 72%. The streets of Tehran and other major cities were transformed into street parties, with thousands of young people and families honking horns, blaring music and chanting support for the country’s imprisoned opposition leaders.

Iran
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Attention has focused on Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammed following his appointment as education minister. For several years he has served as the General Intelligence Directorate deputy chief and before that was long involved with the Saudi Arabian National Guard at a senior level.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 946 - 10 May 2013

Sheikh Tamim’s busy schedule

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Apart from the usual round of chairing domestic-related meetings (such as the Supreme Committee for Development Planning meetings) and ribbon cutting, heir apparent Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani has had a busy start to the year.

Qatar
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The start of construction on the new Kuwaiti Mubarak Al-Kabir port near Iraq has reignited long-standing resentments over territory, security and the legacy of reparations from the Saddam era

Kuwait | Iraq