From the Editors
[The following statement was recently released in Arabic by a group of Saudi writers and intellectuals in regards to the upcoming municipal elections in the Kingdom. The Saudi Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs announced on March 22, 2011, that municipal elections would be held on September 22, 2011. Translation by Ziad Abu-Rish. The Arabic version of the statement can be found here.]
Announcement of Boycott of the Saudi Municipal Elections
After the experience of the 2005 municipal elections and the postponement--without explanation--of the elections that were supposed to be held in 2009, it was announced that municipal elections would be held by the end of this year in its same old mold without any additions or changes and without addressing the negatives of the first experience.
In light of the previous [electoral] experience and its attendant deficiencies in the work of the municipal councils, and in the shadow of the historic transformations the region is witnessing in the direction of increased democratic practices and popular participation in decision-making, we believe that boycott is the most appropriate position in dealing with these elections for the following reasons:
1- The absence of prerogatives that would enable the municipal councils to effectively perform their role as they enjoy neither financial nor administrative independence. Also absent are the prerogatives to set and oversee project budgets which are needed by the cities. The experience of the previous six years have proven the absence of any effective role for these councils even in the small issues related to municipal work such that they have no presence in the lives of citizens.
2- The insistence on the election of half the council and the appointment of the other half. Therein lies the killing of democratic practice and the lessening of the value the electoral process and its effects. Furthermore, it is an unacceptable signal of the inability of voters to produce a fully-elected council whose members conduct their duties in the service of citizens.
3- The exclusion of women from participation for the second time as candidates or voters through the same worn out excuses that were used six years ago. This effectively disrupts the electoral participation of half of society and thus opposes the true meaning of popular participation.
4- The failure of the elections in their current form to meet the aspiration for expanding popular participation in decision-making as expressed in the numerous reform statements, which include a fully-elected parliament with broad legislative and oversight prerogatives that quench the popular thirst for complete and effective democratic practice.
We consider the aforementioned reasons to contradict the heart of the electoral process in the sense of popular participation in decision-making. These elections elections hold no decision nor does its ballot boxes express the authority of the citizens.
Consequently, we declare our boycott of these elections and call on all those with the right to participate to boycott them both as nominees and as voters. We affirm our commitment to the demands found in reform statements that express a view towards democratic transformation that guarantees real participation in decision-making.
We believe boycott today is the foundation for effective participation tomorrow.
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