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