The Municipal Landmark elections A Historical Background
When King Abdulaziz entered Makkah in the year 1343AH he ordered that a local council should be formed, it should consist of 12 members to be chosen by the public to assist him in running the affairs of the Holy City. This council has developed later to include all the Hijaz Area in addition to Makkah. Later, the Idea of having local councils was extended to include Madinah, Jeddah, Yanbu and Ta'if. Those who participated in these councils included Ulama (religiously learned people), businessmen, intellectuals and scholars. These councils were the nucleus of the City Councils.
Later a decree governing and regulating the work of the Capital City and the Municipalities was issued. This decree explained and regulated the formations of the Capital Governorate and the Municipalities Councils, the duties of each, and the system of assigning and carrying out work were also stated. Among these duties was the nomination and election of heads of trades and the way their work is to be monitored. The decree also explained the relationship between the Municipality, the administrative council and the Municipal Council. According to the decree each council shall elected, and the elections should be carried out according to the respective law. Each council shall elect its chairman and his deputy through a secret ballot and that the Municipal Council shall be concerned with the budget draft, agreements, contracts, reviewing the laws and directives, determining the fees and their amendments.
On 30th June 1964 the first issue of Al Jazeirs News Paper was published. In that issue the Governor of Riyadh Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz issued the following statement, " it is clear that members of the Municipality Council will be elected by the general public through the balloting paper which is the crucible where the good public elements will fuse and select a leader who will be a connecting link between the government and the people, that leader should be a qualified and intelligent persons who could speak on behalf of the people and demand what his people in his area particularly needed and what Riyadh in general needed. Since elections generally depend on voters turn out, therefore the success or failure of the idea of the Municipal Council depended largely on the citizens themselves. There is no doubt that we took this step because we are sure that our citizens in Riyadh are very enlightened and have the spirit of participation and cooperation that would make the Municipal elections a reality, by Will of Allah.:
In 21/2/1397 a law regulating Rural and Municipal councils was issued, it consisted of 49 articles. Articles 6 to 27 were set for Municipal Councils. This law states that authority in the Municipality shall be invested in two bodies these are:
a- the Municipal Council which will have the authority of dicision making and monitoring.
b- the Head of the Municipality who be the executive authority to be aided by the Municipal Departments.
The law also states that the Minister of Rural and Municipal Affairs shal decide the number of the Municipality members in each Municipality but they should not be less than four or more than fourteen, among them is the Head of the Municipality. Half of the members shall be elected and the other half nominated by the minister from among the highly qualified citizens.
The Municipal Council shall choose its Chairman and Deputy periodically for a period of two years.
The mechanism of elections was approved through the executive circular issued by the Minister of Rural and Municipal Affairs and other instructions that might be issued later concerning the elections and election awareness among the citizens.
These municipal elections were considered to be of great challenge to the citizens as qualified participants in building the civil institutions and the decision making institutions. These institutions will surely take up the greater part of the responsibilities of the State and therefore reduce many of the responsibilities of government department's bureaucracy.
The Concept of Municipal Elections
.The Municipal elections provide a chance for the citizen to participate in the decision making process through the election of highly qualified persons to run his affairs in his place of residence.
The concept of Elections
Generally the concept of elections is based on the voting of eligible citizens to chose from among contestants or nominees in an organized manner according to internationally accepted balloting laws.
The Importance and purposes of elections
The Municipal Elections gains its importance from the fact that it allows general public to participate in the running of the affair of the municipal services. The public participation is important because it streamlines government decisions in such a way that it provides the greatest benefits to the citizens. In addition to that, public participation puts the citizens in the realm of responsibility together with the government which in effect will increase the awareness and initiative among the people who are expected to shoulder their responsibility and do their duty towards their country through the effective and constructive participation the is based on the protection of the higher national interests. Elections have great influence in consolidating the principles of fairness and justice and ensuring loyalty and the spirit of belonging to the country.
In 18/8/1424 the Saudi Arabian Cabinet issued a decision No 224 to confirm and widen the participation of the citizens in running the local affairs and decision making the decree reads. "Citizens participation in running the local affairs shall be widened through elections; this shall be done dynamic Municipal Councils according to Rural and Municipal laws and that half of the members of each municipality shall be appointed".
Therefore active participation in municipal council's elections reflects the keenness of the citizens on preserving the interests of the country and his feeling of the common responsibility with the government in its development and security. The elections will be a means of forming municipal councils that represent an important axis in the local administration and consolidating the public participation in decision making and therefore raising the level of providing better services according to needs, wants and anticipations of citizens.
Stages of the election operation
a- registration of the voters
This is the first stage of the election procedure. In this stage the eligible voters will be registered in specially prepared registers named "the voters register list" where the eligible voters will be registered in electoral colleges to be established in the municipality vicinity during a specific period of time. At the end of the registration period, tables containing the names of the voterss will be published for a certain period of time in such a way that all concerned shall be able to view.
Any objections will summarily be looked upon. The stage of registration is a good chance for eligible voters to register and if anyone missed this chance he shall not be eligible to vote. It should be noted that registration is not compulsory for any one.
b- Registration of Candidates
Nominations will be allowed after the end of voter registration this is because for any person to be nominated he must have his name registered in the voters list. Nominees registration is very important in the election operation because it regulates the nomination process and reduces the irresponsible nominations, so the nomination shall be for a specific period of time and according to certain procedures that precede the issuance of the voters list and their publication in the electoral college so that they could be viewed by the parties concerned.
Objections to any nominations would be looked upon and final publications would be made. A nominee could withdraw his nomination within five days of the publication of nominees list.
c- The election campaigns
After the final lists of nominees have been published they shall be allowed to begin campaigning for the elections. During the campaign candidates will be able to introduce themselves, their election programs, their anticipations, their ideas and future plans to the voters. No candidate shall be allowed to begin his election campaign or declaring his nomination before the publication of the final list of the nominees.
These campaigns are of great importance to both candidates and voters because they offer a chance to the voter to decide which candidate is more suitable for the municipal council's membership than the others. On the other hand it also provides a chance for the candidate to send a message to the voters to explain to them why he is more eligible that the others in representing them.
Though these campaigns are virtually the right of every candidate, but it is a restricted right, they should be carried out according the regulations governing the elections. Elections shall not exceed certain limits such as causing turbulence or any regional, sectarian or tribal conflict and they should not be used to infringe the rights and freedom of others.
The axis of any election operation is the balloting because all the previous stages are only preparations for this stage. In the balloting day voters would be able to select the persons they think are the most suitable for the membership of their municipality council. This is of course done according to procedures and in the electoral constituencies where they were registered. Balloting shall be manual by balloting cards. This is the best system and the one mostly used in elections because it guarantees a safer and fairer election because it is also easier for voters. Balloting card system could also be easily monitored by observers and it could be recounted if that became necessary.
e- Vote counting
This is an organized procedure that enables officials to know who won the elections; this procedure is done at the end of voting. Here vote are of course counted carefully in the same election center by the election and counting committees.
f- Declaration of results
At the end of the counting of the votes, The candidate with the most votes is then declared the winner of the election.. Hence the elections are over and what remain will be the results of the objection if there are any and of course the procedure of naming the members of the municipal council.
Challenging and disputing.
Every voter or candidate has the right to challenge or dispute the decisions of the electoral committees or the refusal of any committee to take a decision in his but that but failed to do that. The challenge or dispute shall be done within three days after the decision was taken.
Candidates also have the right to challenge the registration of any person in his electoral college for the reason that he did comply with the regulations or fulfill the required conditions, which should also be done within three days after the end of the publication of voters list. Every voter or candidate could challenge or dispute the election of any candidate or voter within five days of the end of the election.
Challenging and disputing should be submitted in writing to chairman of challenges and disputes committee stating the reasons on which his dispute or dispute was based.