Saudi voters elected women candidates for first time in Municipal council polls

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Who: Women candidates
Where: Saudi Arabia
What: Elected for the first time in Municipal council polls
When: 13 December 2015

Saudi Arabian voters on 12 December 2015 voted to elect women in at least 18 municipal council seats. This was a historic local elections in Saudi Arabia in which women were allowed to vote and run for office for the first time.

This event occurred for the first time in the history of the country. The results of the election were declared on 13 December 2015.

The winners hailed from different parts of the nation, ranging from largest city to the small village near Islam’s holiest site. The conservative capital of Riyadh saw the most women candidates win, with four elected. Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi was elected to the council of Madrakah, a region in Mecca.

Though there are no quotas for female council members, an additional 1050 seats are appointed with approval by the king who could use his powers to ensure more women are represented. Women are still not allowed to drive and are governed by guardianship laws that give men final say over aspects of their lives like marriage, travel and higher education.

The women were allowed to vote and contest in the municipal election in accordance to the royal decree issued in 2011. As per the decree, only 978 women were registered as candidates on 284 councils, however many were barred from registering by the authorities.

But the king in his decree banned women from driving and asked them to cover themselves in public. Saudi was the last country to give its women the right to vote.

The previous two rounds of voting for the councils, in 2005 and 2011, were open to men only.

Comment
All though these elected female candidates represent just one person of the roughly 2100 municipal council seats but this election is a symbol of a step forward towards women empowerment in the nation.