Qatar is an emirate, and its Head of State (since 1995) is the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
He also holds the positions of Minister of Defense and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The emirate is hereditary, so there are no elections for this position. The heir apparent is Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.
The head of government is the Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabir al-Thani (since 2007), and the Deputy Prime Minister is Ahmad bin Abdallah al-Mahmud (since 2011). These positions are appointed by the Emir.
There is also a cabinet/council of ministers, which is appointed by the Emir.
The Advisory Council can draft and approve laws, but final say is in the hands of the Emir. The Council has 45 members, 30 of whom are elected by direct, general secret ballot, and 15 of whom are appointed by the Emir. The next election is scheduled for 2013.
In 2007, an Administrative Court, a Constitutional Court, and Courts of First Instance, Appeal, and Cassation were established. All judges are appointed by Amiri degree, on the recommendation of the Supreme Judiciary Council (established in 1999).
Terms are for three years. The legal system is based on Islamic and civil law codes, and a discretionary system of law controlled by the Emir. Islamic law dominates family and personal issues.
Additionally, in May 2011, Qatar held nationwide elections for a 29-member Central Municipal Council (CMC), which has limited consultative powers aimed at improving the provision of municipal services. (The first CMC election had been held in March 1999). Terms are for four years.
Male and female Qataris aged 18 and older are able to vote, and run as candidates for election.
There are no political parties in Qatar.