Absentee balloting to be allowed in civic poll.
Saudi citizens unable to visit polling stations because of legal complications or statutory provisions can also avail themselves of the facility to vote by delegating authority to a Saudi citizen, Abdul Rahman Al-Dahmash, chief of the 11-member electoral commission, said Friday. The names of 5,069 candidates running in the elections to be held on Sept. 29 will be announced Saturday. The contestants will also begin their election campaigns -- set to continue for 11 days -- from Sunday, said spokesman of the general elections committee Jidaie bin Nahar Al-Qahtani. He said the names of the candidates will be made public after all deletions -- withdrawals and those not cleared in the vetting process during the scrutiny period (June 25-July 6) due to objections by voters. Explaining the process of voting in absentia, Al-Dahmash said a handicapped person could authorize his friend or relative to vote on his behalf provided the authorization is certified by the election commission. The person voting on behalf of the handicapped person must be sane and of 21 years of age, he said, adding a naturalized citizen will also be allowed to vote. He said that the absentee ballot is a common international practice, adding the election supervisors will monitor the elections at voting centers to ensure full transparency. Al-Dahmash said that "all necessary measures have been taken and arrangements finalized to guarantee transparency and to minimize complaints from voters or candidates." He noted that a number of civil society institutions would deploy supervisors at election centers on the polling day to monitor the ballot. He said some candidates, including six in Najran, have been barred from the contest. Naturalized citizens holding citizenship cards for the last 10 years have been allowed to contest the election this year. Journalists would be allowed to visit polling stations, interact with election officials and prepare their reports for publications or broadcasting with ease, he added. The election committee spokesman Al-Qahtani also said final names of the candidates will also be available on the Internet (www.intekhabat.gov.sa). A total of 816 members will be chosen for 285 municipal councils in all regions in addition to an equal number of members to be appointed by the Ministry of Rural and Municipal Affairs. Al-Qahtani said the number of members, which was only 606 in the first vote, increased following the ministry's decision to change rural communities into municipalities. Riyadh, with 956 candidates and 54 voting centers, tops all regions while the eastern Al-Ahsa town is at the bottom with only 99 candidates and nine voting centers. This is the second municipal election in the Kingdom. The first was held six years ago for 179 councils. The balloting centers were increased from 631 during the first election to 752. The ministry decided that a municipal council should not have less than six members. About 1.2 million Saudi voters are eligible to cast their votes in the elections.
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