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sobota, 23 kwietnia 2011

Women plan to show up at poll centers


JEDDAH: As voter registration is set to begin Saturday for September's municipal elections, a group of women's advocates said they plan to show up at registration centers to demand their right to participate in the elections for half of the Kingdom's municipal council members.
“We will show up at the centers in Jeddah, Riyadh and the Eastern Province and will demand voting cards,” said Enam Al-Asfour, a member of the so-called "Baladi" ("My Town") campaign.
Registration for September's election will conclude on July 28. All adult Saudi men are eligible to vote for half of the members of each municipal council. The other members are appointed through the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs. Those wishing to register should show their family ID cards at the nearest registration center between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. any day except Friday. If a voter has previously registered and his address hasn't changed since the previous election then registration is not necessary.
"I will try to take off from work for a few hours to register," said 25-year-old Jeddah resident Mohammed Al-Isa. "I think it is important to vote for these elections and show support.”
Members of the Baladi campaign evidently agree, which is why they have in the past arranged workshops to educate women on the importance of participating in the electoral process.
According to Al-Asfour, there are two reasons some have called for boycotting the elections.
"First because members of municipal councils do not have power to take actions," she told Arab News. "The other factor is because women are not participating. What we all demand is that elected candidates do things right, and also we want women in.”
Badria Al-Bishr, a Saudi columnist at Al-Hayat newspaper, applauded the women’s move and said that the ban "not only keeps women away from (social) development projects but also excludes them from their rights as citizens."
She added: “We don’t want excuses. We need solutions for the delay in addressing women's issues, starting with the participation in elections, having women lawyers, setting a minimum age for marriage, giving nationality to the children of Saudi women by non-Saudi fathers, and the women-driving issue.”
But Al-Bishr expressed doubt about whether boycotting the elections would really help.
“We are hoping that these elections will enlighten citizens about their role in choosing the appropriate candidates, the ones who are qualified,” she said, adding: “It is women who need to stand up for their rights and not wait for men to adopt their issues.”
On Thursday, Election Commissioner Abdul Rahman Al-Dahmash told reporters during an inspection tour of Jazan’s voting centers that he expects a large voter turnout.
There will be 855 voting centers for the Kingdom's 285 municipal councils.

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