By Jou Pabalate
If you think there’s not much you can do for your community, think again, because having your say may just be a VOTE away.
In December 2015, the Kingdom will have its nationwide municipality elections. Saudi citizens aged 18 and above will have the opportunity to vote for the council leaders of their respective neighborhoods. To help you get ready for the elections, Al Nahda Charity Organization launched a Kingdom-wide Election Awareness Campaign. We sat down with their team to assist you in making the right decision and choose Riyadh’s next municipality leaders.
Why vote in the first place?
Voting is important for multiple reasons. One is that it is a right provided to us by the government and we should exercise it with much responsibility. Additionally, voting is a way for citizens to actively participate in the welfare of their society on issues that affect them directly, like road safety and hygiene.
The process of voting is educational in its own right. Citizens will truly understand what it means to give their voice to someone and they will go for a candidate who reflects their values. The process of voting and learning how to do it is invaluable. It provides a sense of agency and productive community participation.
What changes will be seen in the next Council?
In terms of form:
1. In the third term there will be more members in each council. Some councils will have over 100 percent increase, for example, Riyadh Council will go from 14 members to 30 members.
2. There will be an increase in the number of elected officials, from 1/2 to 2/3 of the members.
3. Women will be allowed to vote and run.
4. The voting age went down from 21 to 18 years old.
In terms of substance, the role of the council has changed. In the past two terms it was more of a consulting and observatory body. Now their role falls in four categories:
1. Decision making: They will be able to review and approve budgets and plans by the municipality (baladiya).
2. Input: They will research and provide input or advice regarding local policies and projects.
3. Oversight: This will assist in ensuring accountability and transparency in municipality dealings.
With the change in the voting age and the roles of the Council, it’s important for everyone to know exactly what their vote means. Where can voters get more information?
For those who want to know about the elections, we want them to attend our workshops that will run until the end of August (to overlap slightly with the voter registration period that falls from Aug. 22 to Sept. 14). The workshops are posted on our website wataneea.com and registration is online.
If people already understand the role and are eager to vote and want to help us spread the word, they can do it in the following ways: they can volunteer with us in the workshops, events or host us at their institution where we will come and train their colleagues.