Saudi municipal polls put off for two years


The Saudi cabinet decided to extend the councils’ mandate for two more years from October 31, after hearing a report from the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs on the experience of the councils since the pioneering first election four years ago, according to a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

The government wants to give time to “expand the participation of citizens in the management of local affairs” and to draft new regulations for the councils toward this goal, the statement said.

In 2005, Saudi Arabia held elections to select half the members of 178 municipal councils as part of a cautious process of reform; the other half remained appointed. Women were not allowed to run as candidates or to vote but the elections were considered a landmark, where all government positions had been appointed.

Anticipation of new elections this year focused on whether women would be able to participate, against the wishes of the conservative and powerful clergy. One analyst said the government may be putting off the polls in order to prepare the ground better, after Islamists made a strong showing in the 2005 vote.

The cabinet decision came five days after a group of 77 activists sent a petition to the king calling for faster reform and greater democratisation, including a democratically elected parliament and a prime minister that does not come from the royal family.

“It will be in the best interest of the monarchy if the public is allowed to participate in the election process and is given a choice, and a voice. This in turn will lead to healthy competition and will allow democracy to prevail,” they said.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *