Saudi local elections delayed

Municipal elections across Saudi Arabia - the first such polls in decades - have been postponed again.

    Commentators believe the delay is for practical reasons

    Voting is now scheduled to begin in February, Saudi newspapers reported on Sunday.
     
    The Municipal and Rural Affairs Ministry said the elections, to be held over three stages in three regions, will begin on 10 February in the capital.

    The government first announced that two months of local voting would begin in September.

    But the polls were postponed to November so they would
    not clash with the fasting month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-October. 
      
    Other regions

    Voting in the eastern and south-western regions should follow, starting on 30 March.

    The electorate in northern and central parts of the country including the cities of Makka and Madina will go to the polls on 21 April.
      
    Officials gave no reason for the postponement of the elections, which would have been the first in this conservative, oil-rich country since the 1960s.

    In the 1970s, a new election law for municipal councils was written, but no elections were held. 

    Practical measure

    The delay comes amid intense government efforts to crack down on Saudi groups blamed for a spate of attacks across the country aimed at destabilising the US-allied royal family.
      
    But commentators suggested that practical, not political issues, were behind the delay.
      
    The month of Ramadan and two subsequent religious festivals including the Hajj pilgrimage season, run from mid-October to late January and exhaust government resources, said Ihsan Bu Huliqa, a Shura Council member.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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