Leftist protesters display banners and the Lebanese national flag during a demonstration in Beirut yesterday against the sectarian political system. Image Credit: EPA

Manama: They are only four. But that's already a record in Qatar where women are slowly, but steadily moving up the political ladder after they asserted themselves in the business, media and social sectors.

Shaikha Al Jefairi, Fatima Al Kuwari, Amal Eisa Al Mohannadi and Fatima Al Gazal will in four weeks face the formidable task of winning their constituencies in the municipal elections and make the small step forward that would be a giant leap in the world of politics in Qatar. In 2007, only three women ran in the municipal elections.

Moza Al Malki in 1999 made history when she became the first woman in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to contest in an election. She lost in the polls, but succeeded in creating ripples that are still spreading.

Shaikha added to the history-making process when she won her constituency in 2003, although she ran unopposed. She was the only woman to run in the elections, but hers has been a success story since then.

In 2007, she defeated her only rival by a record margin. However, in the May 10 elections, she will face another woman, Fatima Al Kuwari, for the Old Airport constituency seat.

Vote bank

According to Qatari daily The Peninsula, observers believe the contest in Old Airport is going to be keen given the fact that Shaikha has a strong name, a much-appreciated electoral experience and a confirmed vote bank, while Fatima, a new face who has jumped in the electoral fray for the first time, has fresh ideas to woo young constituents.

In Al Khartiyat, Amal is pitched against six male rivals while Fatima Al Gazali is challenging eight male contestants in Abu Hamour, the largest constituency.