Decks cleared for holding next municipal elections

The new legislation, which will replace the present 34-year-old election laws, will offer a broad regulatory framework for municipal elections and explain the extent of power, jurisdiction, rights and duties of councilors.
“The municipal elections will be held well in time after the extended tenure of the councils expire around November 2011,” said Ibrahim H. Al-Quayid, a member of the Riyadh Municipal Council, who bagged the highest number of votes in the first historic elections held in Saudi Arabia in 2005.
Al-Quayid said that the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs (MOMRA) want to have this revised election law enforced as early as possible. Al-Quayid, who is also a founding member of the National Society for Human Rights, said MOMRA had worked out the consolidated statute governing the municipal elections, internal organization and structure of municipalities with the help of municipal members, experts and officials.
On the reason for the delay in holding elections, he said that more time was needed to study “how to expand participation of citizens in running local affairs.”
Saudi Arabia held its first municipal elections in 2005, giving a four-year term and later extending the term by two years more, said Al-Quayid. He said that “the MOMRA was giving all signals … that the elections will be held in due time and the due time is on the expiry of our term later next year.”
He added that all 178 municipal councils run by over 1,400 elected and nominated members are functioning on full steam at the moment.
He noted that some new municipalities were opened in different parts of the Kingdom after the 2005 elections, a development that has further raised the number of the municipal councilors. On the expanding role of the municipalities, he said that the councils have succeeded in discussing, deciding and implementing major municipal projects as a nodal agency of the Saudi government. The councils, he said, had also made decisions about municipal financing and delivered a range of quality services.
“We observe a municipal day (every Tuesday) when we meet people and the press, while we also listen to the grievances of the people,” said Al-Quayid. He, however, could not say much about the participation of women in the next municipal elections. Saudi women were barred from running or voting in the last elections, but the Saudi government at that time promised they would be allowed to vote in the next elections. Male citizens over the age of 21 voted for half of the members of the councils in the 2005 elections.

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