The men’s balloting is underway for the competitive Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry board elections, the Arab News reported today. What differentiates these elections from previous ones are two hot topics: women candidates on the ballots for the first time and Saudi Arabia’s entry into the World Trade Organization. The results of the election will be tallied today.
Experts anticipate that the elections will be the biggest yet with the highest voter turnout. “The largest number of voters in the past was during the 16th board elections,” Dr. Ghassan Al-Sulaiman, chairman of the JCCI board of directors, told the Arab News. “Around 20 percent of potential voters cast their votes back then.”
Al-Sulaiman said that voter turnout for the current elections is likely to be higher because of the intense competition between candidates.
The two-day balloting for women ended on Sunday, but the turnout was considerably lower than the men’s participation.
Nonetheless, female candidates remain optimistic about victory, despite the low turnout, the Arab News reported yesterday.
Lama Al-Sulaiman, who is running as part of the Lejeddah Group, said that in previous elections only about 1,500 out of 5,000 active male members voted, so for 60 of the 300 active female members to turn out to cast their ballots is actually very good. Also, candidates didn’t have much time to prepare for the elections, Al-Sulaiman said.
Al-Sulaiman said that the next round of elections in four years will be better for female candidates as well as voters.
Some of the women candidates continue to hope that men will vote for them, since according to Saudi custom, many of the female business owners have commercial licenses registered under the name of a male relative.
Other candidates blame the media in part for the public lack of awareness about the campaign. “It’s true that people don’t read, but the media itself was not very informative,” said Hessa Al-Oun, who is running as an independent, in an interview with the Arab News. “The media is a guide, and it should be balanced and objective in its presentation. It should be above the fray.”