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Saudi Arabia: The Second Municipality Election in the Kingdom’s History

The following is a guest post by George Sadek, Senior Legal Information Analyst.

In Saudi Arabia on April 23, 2011, individuals eligible to cast their votes in the municipality election will have the right to register themselves for inclusion in the voters’ election registration lists.  Half of the seats in the municipal councils across the Kingdom are open for election; the other half will be filled by royal appointees.

This will be the second municipality election to take place in Saudi Arabia. The first election was conducted in 2005.  The upcoming municipality election was supposed to take place in October 2009, but the government delayed it due to technical problems.

In March 2011, the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs announced that the municipality election will be held in September 2011.  The election process will begin when eligible voters are able to register themselves for the appropriate lists.  Following the voter registration stage, the government will open the doors for eligible candidates to register their names from May 28th through June 2nd.  Despite the fact that article 1(6) of Ministerial Resolution 38396 on municipality elections entitles all citizens to cast their vote and run in the elections, Saudi authorities do not allow female voters and candidates to exercise this right.

The municipal election process will incorporate some reforms to the previous electoral system.  These changes encompass the following:  1) introducing the one vote system, which allows voters to cast their votes for a single candidate from an electoral list; 2) increasing the number of the municipal councils across the country from 179 to 258; and 3) extending the term for municipal councilors from 4 to 6 years.

In addition to these reform initiatives, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs clearly identified the municipality councils’ mission and objectives.  Accordingly, it provided voters with a deeper understanding of the roles and tasks of the municipality council.  In particular, members of the councils are responsible for setting forth a solid building regulation and creating a future urban strategy.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, in order to ensure the election’s transparency the Minister has appointed members of the General Electoral Commission and the Executive Commission of the Municipal Election to oversee the election. The role of these commissions includes working together to supervise the electoral process, and solving any conflicts that may arise during this process.

The Law Library of Congress is monitoring the current events in the Kingdom concerning the municipality election and will provide readers with updates.  If any readers are interested in learning more about the Saudi legal system, please visit the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) website.  GLIN includes 220 Saudi legal instruments.  You can also submit inquiries to the Law Library through our website.  The Law Library holds many Islamic legal references on the Kingdom in its collections.

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