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Saudi Arabia

Over 1.7 million to vote in civic elections

RIYADH: Over 1.7 million Saudis will participate in the country’s Dec. 12 elections, according to Abdul Lateef Al-Asheikh, municipal and rural affairs minister.
There were 791,411 voters in the first elections and 405,783 in the second one, Al-Asheikh was quoted as saying by a local publication on Wednesday. He thanked the leadership for organizing the elections and amending legislation that would ensure it takes place smoothly.
The third municipal elections was approved in a royal decree last year and will see two-thirds of the councils elected. The voting age has been reduced from 21 to 18 years to allow for the participation of young people in the country’s decision-making.
The first elections saw 179 councils set up with 1,212 members, with the second elections having 285 councils and 2,112 members. The upcoming polls would see 284 councils with 3,159 members, two-thirds or 2,106 elected, on condition that each council not exceed 30 members, and with one-third appointed by the minister of municipal and rural affairs.
There are now 424 polling stations for women out of 1,263 in cities and governorates across the Kingdom, with local election committees formed for all regions. These committees oversee the validation of voter’s rolls and the smooth administration of polling stations.
Election committees are making sure that all citizens have an opportunity to participate including those who are ill or have physical disabilities. These people are allowed to nominate a person to participate on their behalf. Their representatives must produce certified documents to do so. If a citizen cannot participate, like a prisoner or detainee, a representative must be given power of attorney to do so.
According to the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, the Interior Ministry would be responsible for security at polling stations and not private firms.
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs had turned down a request from various municipalities across the country for private security firms to be employed during the elections, said sources quoted by a local publication on Thursday.
It has urged all municipalities to coordinate all their security needs with the Interior Ministry inside and outside polling stations. Officials from the two ministries have already agreed to coordinate efforts on this aspect of the elections, the sources said.
The Interior Ministry has emphasized that the elections are important because the ballots of voters and other sensitive documents need to be secured, the sources said.
Meanwhile, the local election committees in the regions and governorates of Al-Ahsa and Taif will implement the national security plans in conjunction with local police. Police departments in each region have formed security committees chaired by senior officers to help election officials maintain security at polling stations.
Col. Ziad Al-Ruqaiti, spokesman for the Eastern Province police, said earlier that his department was working with local election committees and traffic officials to maintain law and order on election day.

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