Within a political setting – such as Qatar’s Shura Council – passionate discussions promote respect for differences and counteract conflict, says QF’s QatarDebate
The recent Shura Council elections in Qatar represented a milestone in Qatari political life, determining the members of one of the two main branches of Qatar's legislative body. And for those elected members, the ability to debate will be an important tool.
Parliaments and Shura Councils are an arena for influencing and gaining support, especially among members and different elements within these political bodies. This is where the role of debating comes into play, as it revolves around the process of persuasion – and that demands skills of presentation, backing up an argument while also challenging those of others, and utilizing logic.
Abdulrahman Al-Subaie, Head of Programs at QatarDebate – a member of Qatar Foundation – says the power of debate in a political sense lies in its capacity to help members of Parliaments and Shura Councils win the support of their colleagues to sway a decision in their favor. Emphasizing that differences of opinion are one of the natural hallmarks of political bodies with diverse members and different programs, projects, and beliefs, he said these can be reflected in both a “constructive and destructive” way.
The importance of debates is built upon making differences a manifestation of diversity rather than conflict
"The importance of debates is built upon making differences a manifestation of diversity rather than conflict,” he said. “That lies in the values upon which debates are based, such as mutual respect, criticism of ideas and opinions rather than personalities, and understanding the point of view of others and their right to express their opinions.”
Debates are an process that organizes dialogue in a template that ensures ideas and viewpoints are presented in a clear, logical, and sequential manner, within rules that allow equal opportunity for all those involved in the dialogue to contribute. In a political context, Al-Subaie explained: “Since most of the projects that are circulated and put forward in parliamentary and consultative sessions are of a political or legal nature, ensuring all opinions are heard is critical in order to reach a fruitful conclusion to dialogue.
“This what debates create, through a system of dialogue that is appropriate to the nature of these councils and parliaments.”
Al-Subaie points to the key role of debates in political systems across the world. “The UK Parliament is considered as one of the most prominent political models for using debates in making political decisions and passing laws, where the decision-making process and many parliamentary matters take the form of a debate between members representing different political currents," he says.
"We also see the prominence of debates in the Canadian and US parliaments, among others. Even at a presidential level, debates occupy an important place in many presidential races, such as the US and France."
Decisions that are built according to the rules of logic and the facts of reality enjoy a high degree of popular acceptance
Al-Subaie says that decision-makers who are skilled in the art of debate are also well-equipped to engage in dialogue with the media, and respond to their questions in a professional manner, which contributes to strengthening cooperation between legislative authorities and journalists.
And he explained that decision-makers who are experienced in the art of debating usually demonstrate great confidence in presenting and promoting their decisions and views to the public and the media, because they develop a distinctive style of expression and presentation.
"Decisions that are built according to the rules of logic and the facts of reality enjoy a high degree of popular acceptance,” he said. “Importantly, this helps to build societal consensus and bridges of trust between citizens and decision-makers, which leads to stability and positivity in the political atmosphere."