Women elected for first time in Saudi Arabia

A Saudi woman leaves a polling station after casting her vote during municipal elections.
REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
A Saudi woman leaves a polling station after casting her vote during municipal elections. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

A landmark election has seen women become council representatives for the first time in the conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

A ban on woman taking part in elections was lifted this year meaning women could not only stand for representation, but could vote. A total of 978 women registered as candidates, alongside 5938 men.

It is only the third time in the country’s history an election has been held.

Women standing for representation had many restrictions including not being able to directly address men but, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA), at least four women were elected. Other news agencies put the number between nine and 17.

It is a small step for the kingdom with Saudi women still facing many curbs in public life, including driving and needing a male guardian to leave the country.  An estimated 30,000 women had registered to vote in Saturday’s poll, compared with 1.35 million men.

The decision to allow women to take part was taken by the late King Abdullah before his death in January. He said women in Saudi Arabia “have demonstrated positions that expressed correct opinions and advice”.

He also appointed 30 women to the country’s top advisory Shura Council.

 

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