Elections in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Candidates for most executive positions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are chosen through elections, where citizens can effectively participate in the decision-making process. This is considered a significant milestone in the Kingdom’s progress towards building a participation-based society, in all respects.
Municipal Councils Elections
Municipal councils elections are conducted every 4 years, enabling citizens to participate in managing municipal services and selecting the most efficient candidates.
The Municipal and Rural System, issued by royal decree no. 5/M dated 21/2/1397H, stipulates in its ninth article that half the municipal council members must be chosen by elections, and the other half appointed by the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, based on their efficiency and eligibility. The tenth article of the System states that each municipal council shall choose its chairman and his deputy from amongst council members through voting every two years. In the event that all the candidates receive an equal share of the vote, the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs shall have the deciding ballot.
Third Phase of the municipal elections:
During the past two sessions, municipal councils contributed to the development of municipal work. Plans and programs were developed and projects implementation were monitored. Councils have responded to citizens’ appeals for better services. Municipalities performance was activated while upgrading their capabilities in order to meet the objectives for which they were established.
The third elections of municipal councils’ members will be launched in a new apparel. Several improvements of the election process will be introduced that have been duly approved by the new municipal councils’ regulations issued on 4/10/1435. The new regulations will be implemented during the present session including the elections for formation of municipal councils.
The most prominent improvements approved by the new regulations include:
- Number of elected municipal council members will be increased from half the total number of members to two thirds.
- The age of eligible voter is revised to 18 years instead of the existing 21 years.
- Women are allowed to participate both as voters and candidates.
Elections will allow the citizens the opportunity to participate in the decision making by voting for competent and experienced candidates who will manage local affairs and municipal services. The elections’ concept is based on a group of eligible citizens casting their votes in favor of candidates they support. The process is conducted in compliance with approved voting regulations.
Municipal councils draws their significance from contribution of citizens to the management of services in government agencies. This contribution helps support the government decision making to the benefit of citizens. Moreover, this contribution allows citizens to share responsibility with government agencies, resulting in increased awareness and initiation on the part of the citizen.
Saudi Ministry of Municipal & Rural Affairs has been keen to launch “Election” application for smart devices. It contains all elections-related e-services, rules and details:
Stages of elections process:
Registration of voters:
Registration of voters starts on 7/11/1436 and continues for (21) days. This is the first stage of the elections process. In this stage, eligible voters are registered in special electoral rolls at the elections centers within the municipal council constituencies. Upon completion of the registration period, electoral rolls will be published for any contestations and corrections. Registration is optional. However, failure to register during the specified period will result in losing the right for voting/candidacy in the polling day.
Registration of candidates:
The third session features concurrent voters and candidates registration which starts on 15/11/1436 and continues for (17) days. In order to avail the candidacy right, the candidate shall be registered in the electoral rolls. Nomination of candidates will be made during the specified period and under certain procedure precedent to issuance and publishing of the list of candidates for contestation and correction purposes before they are finally published .
Candidates electoral campaigns:
It the pre-final stage. It starts on 17/2/1437 following publishing of the final list of candidate names. It continues for (12) days. Candidates will be allowed to start their electoral campaigns and introduce themselves, their electoral programs, ideas, inspirations and future plans. A candidate is not allowed to start his/her electoral campaign or declare his/her candidacy before publishing of the final lists of candidate names. Campaigns are important for candidates as well as voters. They give the voter the opportunity to decide on the most suitable candidate who possesses necessary qualities for membership of the municipal council. On the other hand, it is an opportunity for the candidate to deliver his/her message to the voters and introduce himself/herself to the voters in order to gain their support on the election day.
This last stage is scheduled on 1/3/1437. Ballot is the most important part of the elections process. All the previous actions are considered preparatory to the ballot day. Voters will cast their ballots on this day and select their candidates according to established procedure at the polling centers where they were registered .
It is a process that is conducted under certain procedure to identify successful candidates. It is conducted upon completion of the ballot process. Votes will be counted at the same election center by votes counting committees.
Announcement of results:
Upon completion of the counting process, the list of successful candidates will be announced with votes obtained by each candidate. Results will be announced the next day 2/3/1437. Thus, the election process comes to an end. The only remaining thing will be the results of appeals/ contestations, if any.
Appeals and contestations:
Each voter/candidate may file a contestation before the appeal and contestation committee against any decision taken by the election committees or against committee failing to take a decision in his/her favor where it should have done so by law. He/she is entitled to file a contestation , at certain times and dates specified by rules and regulations, against any name registered in the lists of voters/candidates. Appeal and contestation committees enjoy complete independence.
Second Phase of Municipal Council Elections
The second phase of municipal elections has been enhanced and updated in numerous ways, in order to eliminate hindrances from the first phase.
New revisions include:
- Voters should vote in the constituency where they live. Voters should give only one vote to one candidate in their constituency.
- The number of municipal councils was increased from 179 to 285.
- Elections are to be held concurrently across all regions of the Kingdom.
- Extensive authority was given to local election teams to arrange and oversee elections.
The total number of council members amounted to 1636, half of them elected. The election process proceeded according to the following phases:
- Voter registration phase from 19/5/1432 H to 27/6/1432H.
- Additional period from 25-30/6/1432 for the registration of voters born during the period of 26/10/1411 to 2/11/1411.
- Registration of candidates from 25 to 30 Rajab 1432H.
- Declaration of preliminary voter lists 9/7/1432H.
- Declaration of preliminary candidate lists 23/7/1432H.
- Declaration of final voter lists 12/8/1432H.
- Declaration of final candidate lists 19/10/1432H.
- Candidate campaigning 20-30/10/1432H.
- Voting day 1/11/1432H.
- Declaration of results 3/11/1432H.
- Formation of municipal councils 18/11/1432H.
Information about the first cycle of Municipal Councils Elections
- The first cycle of municipal elections took place at 179 municipal councils, where the total number of members was 1212, and half of them (506 members) selected by election
- A total of 106 new councils were established after the previous elections.
- A total of 62 new municipalities established committees to act as municipal councils.
Though recently established, these councils have proven successful, holding more than 2471 sessions throughout the year, issuing 492 decisions, 70% of which have subsequently were executed. Additionally, councils have made numerous field visits and held around 701 citizen meetings, in addition to organizing a variety of workshops.
Examples of other types of elections in the Kingdom
1- Chambers of Commerce and Industry Elections
The councils of Chambers of Commerce and Industry are chosen through direct voting by members. Selecting a distinctive and efficient head, lends chambers the momentum to push forwards.
2- University Elections
University students use elections to select the presidents of student clubs, selecting the person they regarded as the representative best able to realize their desires and objectives.
3- Professional Council Elections
- Saudi Council of Engineers
Engineers select representatives to be assigned leadership positions on the Saudi Council of Engineers. These representatives organize and manage the affairs and requirements of all engineers in Saudi Arabia. .
- Saudi Council of Journalists
The board of the Saudi Council of Journalists is constituted through election in which all members participate.
4- Cooperative Society Elections
The board members of cooperative societies working in Saudi Arabia, some 162 societies in all, are selected by elections.
These societies have been established for various reasons and include multi-purpose societies, agricultural societies and fishermen’s societies, in addition to societies relating to marketing, consumers, housing and vocational pursuits.
Cooperative society boards consist of 17 members, who hold most seats and six seats for representatives from the five Ministries as well as from an agricultural financing corporation.
5- Sports Club Elections
Boards members at Saudi sport clubs are chosen by election. These include associations involved in boxing, wrestling, karate, football, tennis, basketball, volleyball athletics, swimming, weightlifting, bodybuilding, cycling, judo and fencing, in addition to other sports. .
6- Labor Committees Elections
Labor committees exist at any corporation with more then 100 employees. The idea of establishing such committees in the Kingdom arose in 2001, after approval by the Cabinet. Heads of these committees are chosen by election.
7- Cultural Association Elections
Members of cultural associations (literary clubs, culture and arts associations etc), elect their representatives through general assemblies. Elected representatives have financial, cultural and administrative authority over their clubs, which can lead to more effective promotion of cultural activities.