Islamist Classification Is Not Acceptable, Says Naif

RIYADH, 14 February 2005 — Interior Minister Prince Naif has rejected moves to classify Saudis into Islamists and non-Islamists. He was referring to media reports that Islamists had won Riyadh Municipal Council elections.

“I strongly object to the media for focusing on this issue. We don’t accept such classifications, because we are all Muslims and citizens. The elections were held in the right manner. It has been proved that they (the winners) followed the law and did not create any problem,” he told reporters.

But defeated candidates held sharply divided opinions about the fairness of last Thursday’s municipal elections in the Riyadh region. Some accuse the victors of violating laws while a majority says the elections were “flawless and fair.”

One of the losers, Bandar ibn Adil Al-Fakheer said: “The other defeated candidates and I have joined hands and are discussing how to challenge the election results.” He went on to say: “We have some legal experts in our group who have been entrusted with the task of charting our future line of action.”

The elections took place only in Riyadh and its surrounding regions on Feb 10. Voters elected half the members of municipal councils with the other half being appointed by the government.

According to election rules, losing candidates have only five days from the date of voting to file complaints with the Grievances Committee. Arab News attempted to contact Dafer Al-Yami, another loser who has been nominated as the head of a seven-member team of losing candidates but could not reach him.

The team met for the first time in Riyadh on Saturday and discussed how to challenge the results. Some losers claim to have sufficient evidence to prove violations of the election code of conduct.

The candidates also said that the winners unfairly claimed they had the backing of Islamic clerics.

“The winners used religion,” said Hezam Al-Otaibi, a loser. “Of course messages were going around on cell phones, violating the election rules,” he added.

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