The business community in Makkah is actively engaged in the upcoming election process for the board of directors for the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI).
A hectic election campaign is taking place and candidates are desperately wooing voters to elect them. Most candidates have used all available methods during the election campaign to gain votes, from traditional tribal affiliation to using Twitter.
The MCCI is one of the oldest chambers in the Kingdom. It was part of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry until their separation in 1947. Now the 8,402 members whose membership was updated up to 2011 are eligible to cast their votes. These members will elect the board for its next four-year term, from 2013 to 2017. A three-member committee, headed by Yahaya Azzan, is supervising the election.
Voting will take place through an electronic system on April 22 and 23 for men and on April 25 for women.
A total of 39 candidates are contesting 12 seats of the 18-member body. Six members are to be nominated by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Among the candidates, Saad Jameel Qurashi, Adel Ahmed Kaki, Ziyad bin Mohammed Farsi, Mohammed Abdusamad Qurashi and Talal Mirza are considered front-runners. All these prominent contenders have been associated with the MCCI in different capacities.
Three women, Amana bint Abdullah Zawavi, Hada bint Mahdi and Aziza bint Abdul Raheem, are also trying to win the elections. Ten women filed their nominations for the elections but in the end only three chose to run.
The election for the board of directors of the MCCI is often subject to controversy as well as interest. For years, a few prominent business families have been dominating the elections. In the past, the Ministry of Commerce suggested that the government nominate half of the members. The business community strongly opposed that idea.
Another time the elections were postponed at the last moment for technical reason.
Apart from the influence of prominent business families, this time the candidates are using many different tactics to influence the electorate.
The election campaign takes place across the city until late at night. The candidates, mostly Saudi businessmen, are busy with their strategy and campaign. Many of them have hired professionals to design their posters and flyers and run their online campaign. Some candidates are offering trips to Dubai and Cairo for their election managers and there are reports that more than SR 5 million has been spent on the campaign so far. Wedding halls across the city are hosting candidates’ dinner parties to entertain voters.
Candidate Saad Jameel Qurashi, who was director of the previous board and is chairman of the transport committee at the MCCI, said that small-scale Saudi businesses in Makkah require assistance. He is planning to establish a special fund through MCCI for short-term loans. He pledged to implement Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal’s “Made in Makkah” project that aims to promote locally produced wares over imported goods. The candidate also promised voters a trade exhibition. Qurashi said that foreign pilgrims played an important role in the Makkah economy.
Amana Zawawi, a woman candidate, told Arab News that she plans to promote women entrepreneurs in Makkah. She also said that the presence of women candidates in the Makkah election reflected the development and empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia.
Candidate Saud bin Mohammed Al-Saayedi, who is chairman of the contractors committee at the MCCI, said the industrial sector in Makkah needed adequate attention. He would work to achieve industrial growth in Makkah.
Small trader Ahmed Mohammed Hazmi said: “Elections and new committees have little impact on our daily business routine. The way the election campaign is being carried out is astonishing to me.”
Another trader, Saeed Al-Harithy, said that he enjoyed the election campaign and hoped that short-term loans would materialize under the new board of directors.
Source: Arab News