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 elections.
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.