Voter registration will open on April 23 and results will be announced within 48 hours, general elections commission says
Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, will hold municipal elections on September 22 as pro-democracy unrest sweeps through the region.
Voter registration will open on April 23 and results will be announced within 48 hours, the general elections commission said on Monday.
The announcement comes after Saudi King Abdullah on March 18 ordered an increase in spending, including $67bn on housing and funds for the military and religious groups that have backed a ban on domestic protests. A call for a March 11 demonstration in the kingdom failed to materialize after the government deployed troops and senior clerics denounced protests as un-Islamic.
More than two months of protests have shaken the Middle East and North Africa as citizens demand civil rights, higher living standards and the ouster of autocratic regimes. In Bahrain, a Saudi neighbour, security forces quelled mainly Shiite demonstrators calling for democracy after Saudi-led troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council entered the country on March 14.
Although Saudi Arabia held its first municipal elections in February 2005, the second election was delayed in May 2009.
Saudi Arabia is the least democratic country in the Middle East and ranks 160th out of 167 countries worldwide, according to the Democracy Index for 2010 published by the Economist Intelligence Unit. All political parties and organizations are banned in Saudi Arabia.