More than 5,000 Saudi men to compete in polls

The elections are set for September 29 and are for half the seats in the kingdom`s 285 municipal councils.

Riyadh: More than 5,000 men will compete in Saudi Arabia`s upcoming municipal elections, the election commission said on Monday as candidates began campaigning for votes.

The elections, only the second in Saudi Arabia`s history, are set for September 29 and are for half the seats in the kingdom`s 285 municipal councils. The other half are appointed by the government.

As in the landmark elections for municipal council seats held in 2005, this year`s poll also bans women from participating.

As a result, more than 60 Saudi intellectuals and activists have called for a boycott of the ballot.

Saudi Arabia`s Shura Council, an all-appointed consultative assembly, has recommended allowing women to vote in the next local polls, not expected for at least another four years, officials have said.

They will not however be allowed to run for office.

According to the electoral commission, more than 1.2 million Saudi men have registered to vote.

Municipal elections are the only form of public vote in Saudi Arabia.

The September 29 poll was originally scheduled for 2009, but in May of that year, the government extended the existing council`s mandate by two years, delaying the vote.

The government`s decision to schedule this year`s poll came amid protests in several Arab countries demanding democratic reforms, and after demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia led to the ouster of long-time presidents in both countries.

Saudi Arabia has so far eluded the mass upheaval that has rocked the region in recent months, though the country`s oil-rich Eastern Province, where the Shiite minority live, has seen sporadic protests.

Bureau Report

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