Cleric-Backed Candidates Win in Riyadh

Candidates backed by Islamic clerics won races in the Saudi Arabian capital in the kingdom's first regular balloting, an election observer said Friday.

Suleiman al-Oqaili told a press conference at which the preliminary results were announced that he saw the seven Riyadh winners' names on a list circulated via cell phones and the Internet.

"It was promoted as a list that had a religious blessing," al-Oqaili said.

A losing candidate objected to the results, claiming that the circulated list violated electoral law by claiming religious backing.

The chief of the election commission, Prince Mansour bin Miteb (search), told al-Oqaili that objectors had five days to file complaints with the Grievance and Complaints Committee, which is obliged to respond within five days after that.

At least five of the winning candidates for the seven electable seats on the Riyadh City Council (search) are believed to be Islamists. It was not known whether the seven winners sought the clerical endorsement indicated on the list or whether they received the support unsolicited.

Losing candidate Thafer al-Yami told The Associated Press he saw the circulated list.

"These people have hijacked the elections," he said.

Al-Yami said the list indicated an alliance among "certain people who follow the same line."

"The list contravened the election law. We want transparency," he said, calling for the election commission to investigate the list.

Prince Mansour said voter turnout in Riyadh was 65 percent, with 56,354 of 86,462 registered voters participating.