OBG talks to Abdullah Al Sheikh, Speaker, Majlis Ash-Shura

Abdullah Al Sheikh, Speaker, Majlis Ash-Shura

Interview: Abdullah Al Sheikh

What method does the Majlis Ash-Shura follow to convey the people’s needs to the government?

ABDULLAH AL SHEIKH: There is a complementary relationship between the Majlis and the people. The citizen is the main concern of the Majlis, which is the representative of the populace and is always focused on discussing the concerns of the people and their issues. Furthermore, the members of the Majlis represent different segments of society, interests and cultures. The Majlis communicates with our society through the media and social networks to ensure it can address the concerns of all. In addition, members of the Majlis convey the needs of society and other developments via discussions held in weekly sessions. The Majlis seeks to reach a shared vision parallel to the interests of the nation and its citizens. Moreover, it communicates the expectations, concerns and issues of the people to ministers and officials within the relevant departments via direct discussions with ministers or in meetings with 13 specialised committees. Among the channels that the Majlis has established to communicate with citizens is daily petitions. For this purpose, we have established a specialised committee called the “Human Rights and Petitions Committee” to review these petitions and to act as a bridge between the council and citizens.

Following the Royal Decree of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, what steps have been taken to accelerate the participation of women in the Majlis?

AL SHEIKH: The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah is pushing forward for the modernisation and development of this country. He has realised that Saudi women have come to hold high-ranking positions in many fields and should participate in decision-making processes in a number of arenas. Given this, a wise decision was taken by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques under the umbrella of the Majlis AshShura to appoint Saudi women to the council in the upcoming term, and to allow women to participate as both voters and candidates in municipal elections. We in the Majlis welcome women as members, after participating as part-time consultants to the Majlis. We are pleased with the performance of and interactions with our female colleagues. With regard to their entry into the Majlis, their names will be announced along with other new members in the upcoming term.

How does the Majlis Ash-Shura contribute to accelerating the process of new legislative drafts?

AL SHEIKH: The Majlis Ash-Shura carries out its legislative role based on Article 23 of its own code, which allows any member of the council to propose a new law or modifications to an existing one, as well as permitting the study and discussion of new regulations decreed by the government. As a result of the council’s competence it is a key partner in the regulatory authority. The council’s point of view may not be parallel to the government’s regarding some legal articles. According to Article 17 of the Majlis Ash-Shura law, if views of both the council and cabinet vary the issue shall be returned to the council to decide what it deems appropriate, and send the new resolution to the King, who is granted the final word over any discrepancies between the cabinet and Majlis Ash-Shura on any new law or modifications to existing legislation. So the council may or may not approve the cabinet’s point of view when it comes to contrasting opinions.

What is the most important trend that can be inferred from the 2011 municipal election results?

AL SHEIKH: Municipal elections and citizen involvement in municipal councils are important and clear goals for the Kingdom, under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. Also, the Crown Prince regards citizens as a central element. The Majlis recently approved a new draft for municipal councils to allow for greater transparency in the electoral process.

Elections in general are not new to the Kingdom, since they have taken place for municipal councils and have expanded our citizens’ political participation.

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