Jeddah: Saudi men are to vote Thursday in
municipal elections, the last all-male affair in the Muslim kingdom after a royal decree this week giving women the right to cast ballots in four years.
Some 5,324 candidates will compete for 816 seats in the
elections -- only the second in Saudi Arabia's history -- to fill half the seats in the country's 285 councils. The other half are appointed by the government.
The first elections in the Gulf kingdom, which has a
population of around 27.5 million, including around 19 million
Saudis, were held in 2005, but the government extended the
existing council's term for two years.
Around 1.2 million male voters have registered to take
The election is just four days after Saudi Arabia's
absolute monarch Abdullah granted women the right to vote and
run in the next municipal elections in four years, a historic
first for the ultra-conservative country.
Women's rights activists had long fought for the right to
vote in the kingdom, which applies a strict version of Sunni
Islam and bars women from driving or travelling without the
consent of a male guardian.
And despite their frustration at having to wait until 2015 to exercise that right, female activists were rejoiced by the
decision by the 86-year-old king, who was spared Arab spring
protests that toppled autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.
"We are heading towards a new era that will see women
obtain their rights," said Maha Futaihi, spouse of the
kingdom's Labour Minister Adel Faqih, who is also a community
First Published: Wednesday, September 28, 2011, 11:50