Saudi Arabia: Shoura council favors women voting
The Shoura Council recommended to the government on Monday that it take necessary measures to allow Saudi women to vote in municipal elections under Islamic law.
The decision was taken unanimously by members of the council, which also discussed the annual report of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs during its 38th regular session, chaired by the Shoura Chairman Abdullah Al-Asheikh in Riyadh on Sunday.
Speaking to reporters, Shoura Council Secretary-General Muhammad Al-Ghamdi said the house took the decision when the council's committee on housing, water and public services tabled its comments on the report, which covered the fiscal year 1427/1428 AH.
Although the members strongly recommended women participate in the municipal elections, Al-Ghamdi explained that the house insisted that the franchise should only be exercised by women in line with Islamic regulations.
In the upcoming municipal elections in the Kingdom, women are not allowed either to vote or to contest the polls.
"This was a general recommendation," Reuters news agency quoted Mohammed Almuhanna, media spokesman for the Shoura Council, as saying. "It has nothing to do with the current elections but is rather a recommendation for future elections."
Hundreds of women around the Kingdom have joined an online campaign called Baladi, Arabic for "My Country", in protest at their exclusion from the municipal elections.
In April, dozens showed up at voting registration centers in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam to demand their right to vote but were turned down by officials.
The council also urged the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs to impose a tax on pieces of vacant land in urban areas. Members argued that such a tax would bring down the prices of real estate as landowners would then be encouraged to sell.
Last week, Municipal and Rural Affairs Minister Prince Mansour bin Miteb had discussions with members of the council on various matters concerning his ministry's projects at its 34th regular session.
During the meeting, the prince told the members that in order to ease traffic jams, his ministry had embarked on a major study to identify alternative public transport means such as a metro system and luxury coaches in major cities.
Al-Ghamdi said the council also requested the ministry to accelerate the implementation of its strategic plan to prevent floods due to rains and construct a sewage system. The members also suggested that the ministry concentrate in developing towns. They stressed that construction of new buildings should not be allowed in valleys and areas prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.
To ease traffic congestion, the members said the respective municipalities should set up parking lots to accommodate vehicles in an orderly fashion.
Traffic jams in major cities in the Kingdom is a major concern of the urban authorities.
Discussing a separate subject, members said the General Audit Bureau should be fully computerized to improve its functions and facilitate better coordination with relevant authorities.
* The Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia also known as or Shura Council is the formal advisory body of , which is an . Although it has no powers, it has limited functions in government, but no power to pass or enforce laws. It has 150 members that are appointed by the King, and six of them are women, as of March 2011.