Saudi Arabia announces municipal elections
By Abeed al-Suhaimy
Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Municipal and Rural
Affairs announced that the first phase of municipal elections is set to
begin on 23 April 2011. These elections are expected to take place in a
single stage due to the short period of time between the beginning of the
election season and the end of the municipal council's term in October 2011.
In contrast, the previous municipal elections that were held in 2005 were
organized in 3 stages.
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs announced that "the first phase
of the municipal elections will begin on Saturday, 19/5/1432 [a date in the
Islamic calendar most likely to fall on 23 April 2011]."
It was also announced that Municipal and Rural Affairs Minister Prince
Mansour Bin Miteb Bin Abdulaziz has set up an electoral commission to
supervise municipal elections in all parts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
This represented the first official announcement of the beginning of the
election season in Saudi Arabia.
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs also announced the formation of
an executive committee for the municipal elections, which will play a
supporting role to the electoral commission.
The text of the decision to form the executive committee states that it will
facilitate the operations of the special electoral commission, and that it
will take all the necessary measures to ensure the success of the municipal
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, sources played down the chance of women
participating in the new municipal elections. Sources also confirmed that
the most prominent change to the electoral system is the introduction of the
one vote system which sees voters voting for a single candidate from an
electoral list, with the legal roles and tasks of municipal councils being
clearly identified in order to ensure that the municipal councils do not
witness similar conflicts as those seen during its first session.
A ministerial committee has also been set up to oversee the municipal
council elections, with this committee being chaired by Abdul Rahman Bin
Muhammad al-Dahmash, and made up of 10 others. Al-Dahmash confirmed that
this committee is tasked with carrying out the election strategy and helping
specialized [electoral] committees during this period. Al-Dahmash also
confirmed that the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs had already begun
preparing for municipal elections months ago, particularly as the current
municipal council session is drawing to a close.
Saudi Arabia is preparing for its second municipal council elections which
will see elections take place in 219 municipal councils across the country.
The first municipal council elections took place in 2005, and was held over
3 stages, with half the members of the 179 municipal council being chosen
via elections, and the other half appointed by the King.
The most distinguishing feature of the upcoming election season are the
changes which will be seen in the electoral system, which includes an
extension of the municipal council term from 4 years to 6 years, as the
previous session ended in late 2009 – a single 4 year term after the 2005
municipal elections – but was extended until 15 October 2011.
It is interesting to note that since the beginning of the current year
regional and municipal secretariats began to form committees that will
prepare for and supervise elections, whilst information indicates that the
first phase of the elections, the voter registration period, will begin on
23 April and end on 19 May, whilst the candidate registration period will
extend from 28 May to 2 June. Following this, the election campaign period
will be determined, and then the elections will occur on 22 September 2011,
with municipal councils being formed in October.