- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: MALE SAUDIS VOTE IN LANDMARK ELECTION, WOMEN BARRED
- Date: 12th February 2005
- Summary: (BN12) RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (FEBRUARY 10, 2005) (REUTERS) 1. SLV EXTERIOR POLLING; POLLING STATION; MV HAS /SLV /MV/SCU VOTERS CHECKING THEIR NAMES 0.51 2. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MANSOUR BIN METEB BIN ABDUL AZIZ, CHAIRMAN OF THE ELECTION COMMISSION "Based upon the data that we have received till now we have had very reasonable turn out especially in some polling stations it was much higher than expected." 1.08 2. MV/SCU DOORS OF POLLING CENTRE BEING CLOSED; MAN LOCKING DOORS TO POLLING STATION 1.25 3. MV VOTING OFFICIALS AT CENTRE; BALLOT BOXES BEING OPENED BY VOTING OFFICIALS; SCU VOTING CENTRE OFFICIALS COUNTING VOTES (10 SHOTS) 2.48 (BN07) RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (FEBRUARY 9, 2005) (REUTERS) 4. SLV SAUDI SPECIAL FORCES TRAINING CENTRE : BUS BEING CHASED BY SPECIAL FORCES; SLV SPECIAL FORCES STOPPING BUS 3.06 5. SLV SPECIAL FORCES ENTER BUS AND ARREST HIJACKER; SCU HAND GUN (3 SHOTS) 3.18 6. SLV CONVOY BEING ATTACKED; SLV POLICE HIT INTERCEPTING CARS 3.55 7. SLV SHOOTING RANGE; SOLDIERS TRAINING ON SHOOTING AT RANGE 4.28 Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
- Embargoed: 27th February 2005 12:00
- Location: RIYADH,SAUDI ARABIA
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Reuters ID: LVADQKLJPOSZBNDOYTLIKJ7UKCIY
- Story Text: Saudi men vote in landmark election, women barred.
Saudi men voted in a municipal election in the
capital Riyadh on Thursday, the first stage in an
unprecedented nationwide vote as the absolute monarchy
inches toward reform.
"It took a long time to get here but we've broken
through a psychological barrier, that we couldn't deal with
ballot boxes," said university professor Sulaiman Enezi,
who raised his arms in triumph after casting his vote.
The polls, from which women are excluded, are part of a
cautious programme of reform introduced by de facto ruler
Crown Prince Abdullah. He has faced calls for change at
home and from Saudi Arabia's main ally, the United States,
after the Sept. 11 attacks which were carried out by mainly
Critics say the elections are largely a cosmetic
response in which few are taking part. But diplomats say
the vote does at least create a mechanism for Saudis to
Voters are deciding just half the members of municipal
councils, whose powers are likely to be limited. The
government will appoint the other council members.
Women cannot vote and few men registered in the Riyadh
area -- just 149,000 in a city of over four million people
-- reflecting scepticism that the councils will make much
difference to daily life.
Barred from the polling stations, as they are from many
aspects of public life, were Saudi Arabia's women. Bucking
the trend in Islamic countries like Afghanistan and
neighbouring Iraq, Saudi rulers resisted calls for their
Officials said they hoped women would have a role soon.
Election Commission Chairman, Mansour Bin Meteb Bin Abdul Aziz
said the turnout was higher than expected in
some polling stations.
"Based upon the data that we have received till now
its very reasonable turnout, especially in some polling
stations it was higher than expected," he said.
Votes will be counted by Thursday night but results
were not likely to be announced before Saturday.
The Riyadh vote is the first of a three-part election
for municipal councils across the country. Voting will take
place in the eastern and southern provinces next month and
in western and northern Saudi Arabia in April.
It follows an appeal by U.S. President George W. Bush
last week for Saudi Arabia to commit to "expanding the role
of its people in determining their future".
Saudi officials counter that change must come from
within and will not be rushed.
More than 1,800 candidates are competing in the Riyadh
area and some have spent millions of dollars on campaigns.
They range from businessmen, tribal figures and security
chiefs to academics and officials, whose enthusiasm has
contrasted sharply with widespread voter apathy.
Posters of rival candidates have sprung up across
Riyadh, a city so conservative that even pictures of the
ruling family are rarely displayed on the streets.
Newspapers have been filled with campaign pledges and
manifestos, many of them playing on a sense of injustice
over wealth distribution in the oil-rich monarchy by
promising to end corruption, at least at the level of
Bedouin tents appeared on empty plots of land
throughout the capital, where candidates invited supporters
for nightly discussions and dinners of camel meat and rice.
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