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Protests erupt in Qatar over new electoral law that 'excludes' local tribe

Al-Murrah tribe members say they want dialogue with the Emir and are not trying to create discord

Protests erupted in Qatar over a new electoral law that members of a marginalised tribe claim excludes them from running in Doha's first-ever legislative election.

Members of the al-Murrah tribe said in a series of videos that went viral on social media over the weekend, that the new electoral law had the potential to exclude them from taking part in October's vote.

The new electoral law states that citizens aged 18 and over, and whose grandfathers were born in Qatar, can vote in districts in which their tribe or family reside.

Candidates must be at least 30 years old and be of Qatari origin, a rule that the tribe says shuts them out of the electoral process.

"Your highness Emir Tamim bin Hamad, these unconstitutional laws are completely rejected by us," Hazzaa Abusharida, is reported to have said in one of the videos.

"I implore you in front of God to save yourself and your people from a great disaster."

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The Arabic Twitter hashtag on the vote was trending in the gas-rich nation, and Qatar's interior ministry said in a statement late on Sunday that seven people had been referred to the public prosecutor for "spreading fake news" and "inciting racial and tribal strife".

Hazza bin Ali, a lawyer and member of the Murrah tribe, said the claims and threats of violence and tribal tensions were false, and the tribe wanted dialogue with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

"They are trying to cause discord between us and the Emir saying we'll pick up arms. This is not true," Bin Ali said.

"We want to have a dialogue with the other party, which should be the Emir or someone that represents him."

Members of the Murrah tribe live across the Gulf, with most residing in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The tribesmen have had a fraught relationship with Doha.

Members of the tribe were accused of supporting the 1996 failed coup attempt against then-Emir Hamad al-Thani, Sheikh Tamim's father.

Some tribe members have had their Qatari citizenship revoked, but in 2005 Qatar's former foreign minister denied that this was done to punish the Murrah tribe.

The upcoming elections slated for October will see the election of two-thirds of the 45 members of the advisory Shura council. The Emir would appoint the remaining 15 members.

October's vote would be Qatar's first national election, although Qataris have previously been able to cast ballots on constitutional reforms and in elections to a nationwide municipal council.