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Saudi Arabia: The Municipality Election

(Apr. 18, 2011) On March 23, 2011, the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs of Saudi Arabia announced that the municipal elections in that country will begin with the voter registration process scheduled for April 23 through May 19. The election will take place on September 22, 2011. This is the second municipal election that will take place in Saudi Arabia, the first having been conducted in 2005. This municipal election was originally supposed to take place in October 2009, but the government delayed it due to technical problems.

The election is governed by Ministerial Resolution 38396, issued in 2004. The goal of the Resolution is stated as ensuring that the elections are conducted in a transparent way, according to generally recognized democratic principles. Articles 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the Ministerial Resolution establish national and local electoral commissions and provide for the creation of separate commissions for registration of voters and candidates. These commissions are supposed to supervise and monitor the electoral process. All disputes or any other issues raised by the candidates will be resolved by the newly created Appeals and Grievances Commission, according to Article 24 of the Resolution. According to the Resolution, the elections shall be held through a direct, secret voting system (art. 15).

The present resolution serves as the main document to determine candidates' and voters' eligibility and their legal capacity. Article 3 specifies voting requirements that each voter must meet in order to cast a valid vote. It prohibits military personnel and those under the age of 21 from voting. Article 12 prohibits candidates from running for office in more than one municipality. Addressing the issue of equal allocation of votes among candidates, article 23 states that if votes are divided evenly among two candidates, the head of the electoral commission will conduct a lottery to determine the winner. (Saudi Arabia Announces the Time for Voters' Registration [in Arabic], AL ANBA'A (Apr. 11, 2011).)