DOHA : Qatari women are standing in the country's first legislative election last Saturday, but in far lower numbers than men, prompting warnings that their influence on issues affecting women could be limited.

Of the 284 hopefuls running for the 30 available council seats, just 28 are women. The remaining 15 seats will be appointed by the emir with analysts suggesting he may name a number of women to right the imbalance in the body which will draft laws and scruitinise ministers.

''It's an extremely positive step that women are part of this process,'' said Elham Fakhro, senior Gulf analyst at the International Crisis Group.

'' However, I do think we have to limit our expectations [ of their influence ] ..... as there are only 28 women running for positions - it really shouldn't be surprising.''

One candidate, Lena al Dafa, said her priorities if elected would be promoting education for women, supporting female teachers and the issue of citizenship for the children of Qatari women.

Qatari citizenship can currently only be inherited by children from their fathers, meaning the children of a Qatari woman who marries someone of another nationality will not be citizens.

This affects the children's ability to benefit from lavish grants, land allocations and other state support in the gas rich emirate.

'' The most important issues for me are [citizenship of] children of Qatari women and documents. This is the most important issue that I adopted from the heart,'' Dafa told AFP ahead of an campaign event.

Dafa, an education official whois running in Qatar's 17 district against two women and seven men, said competence was more important than gender.

'' I do not see it as a competition between me and the men because I see the men as complementary to the legislative process.

'' And we are talking about competencies, not gender,'' she added, before addressing a small crowd of women voters at Qatar's Education City golf club. [AFP]


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