x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ban on women taking part in Saudi elections brings call for a boycott

More than 60 Saudi intellectuals and activists have called for a boycott of Saudi Arabia's upcoming municipal elections after women were banned from participating.

RIYADH // More than 5,000 men will compete in Saudi Arabia's upcoming municipal elections: but no women, and nor will women be allowed to vote.

The election commission announced the massive interest yesterday as candidates began campaigning for votes.

The elections, only the second in Saudi Arabia's history, are scheduled for September 29 and are for half the seats in the kingdom's 285 municipal councils.

The other half are appointed by the government. Like the landmark elections for municipal council seats held in 2005, this year's poll 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 polls. But these are not expected for at least four years, officials have said, and women will not 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 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 long-time presidents being deposed.

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