Riyadh, 6 Dzulqa’dah 1436/21 August 2015 (MINA) – For the first time in history, women in Saudi Arabia are registering to vote in municipal elections, after becoming able to participate in the electoral process in the Gulf-rich Kingdom.
“I didn’t expect this to happen so soon,” Afnan Linjawi, a Saudi writer said, On Islam quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
Linjawi, who is a first-time voter, credited local female leaders for pushing the initiative, as well as the newly named King Salman for approving it.
Linjawi said that while some sectors of Saudi society view women’s suffrage as a “Western intrusion”, she sees a “linear advancement in women’s participation” in the country’s affairs and politics.
“I guess with any change that happens, you have to face opposition.”
The registration process for female voters in Saudi followed years of struggle to grant women their political rights.
It started on Monday when two women from holy cities of Makkah and Madinah became the first female voters to register.
The poll, planned on December, 2015, is the third time municipal elections have been held since 2005.
Partial local elections first took place in 2005, but with only men voting for male candidates for half of each municipal council.
Elections were to be held every four years, but in February 2009, the government announced that it was postponing indefinitely “for evaluation” the 2009 polls, as the push for universal suffrage intensified.
In 2011, the election originally scheduled in 2009, took place, and during the same year legislation was passed allowing women to vote and run for office by 2015.
At the same time, the legislation also set the voting age to 18.
According to the Saudi Gazette, a third of the 1,263 voting centres are being set aside for female voters.
Amnesty International called Saudi’s decision “long overdue”, but added that it is only a fraction of what needs to be addressed over gender equality in the country.
“Let’s not forget that Saudi Arabian women won’t actually be able to drive themselves to the voting booths as they’re still completely banned from driving,” it said. (T/P006/RO6)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)