Saudi Women Win 20 Seats in Elections

Saudi Woman voting (Haaretz)

Saudi woman voting (Haaretz)

In Saudi Arabia, women have now gained a step towards equality: holding office.

In the recent elections held on Dec. 12 of last year, 20 women were elected to municipal seats. They comprise almost 10% of the 2.1K seats available. These seats were the only ones Saudi citizens vote for.

This was the first time women were allowed to vote in municipal elections. The most recent elections were held in 2005 and 2011.

Women were allowed to campaign for seats, albeit in a limited manner. They were not allowed to give out material that showed their faces (though this applied to both men and women), and could not speak to male audiences directly. (A candidate would have to speak from behind a partition or enlist a male relative to speak for her.) Women comprised 979 out of 7K candidates, or nearly 14%.

Around 130K+ women registered to vote, with the voting age being 21. There are 12.2M+ total women, and election officials estimated around 5M women would be eligible to vote. The country’s total population is around 30M.

This speaks to some good progress being made, and I hope there’s more on the horizon. This could happen: Before King Abdullah died, he decreed in 2013 that the Consultive Council, an appointed body that advises the king, be made up of 20% women.

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