UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

First Women Elected to Public Office in Saudi Arabia

by VOA News December 13, 2015

At least 13 women have won municipal council seats in Saudi Arabia's first election open to women voters and candidates.

Early results Sunday show Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi is the first confirmed victory for a woman running for a municipal council seat, beating out seven men and two other women for the position in Madrakah, about 150 kilometers north of Mecca.

State-affiliated websites and independent news agencies indicate Saudi Arabians may have elected as many as 17 women, but no final tally has been announced.

Women facing many obstacles

About 900 of the roughly 6,000 candidates for 2,000 local positions were woman, despite obstacles in running and registering to vote, Human Rights Watch reported. The rights watchdog said the distance to voter registration centers and required ID cards that many women do not have hindered the process.

About 130,000 women registered to vote in Saturday's poll, Saudi officials said, one-tenth the number of registered men.

Human Rights Watch Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said Saudi Arabia's political and cultural segregation of men and women is "making it hard for women to participate and build on this progress to create momentum for further women's rights reforms."

Voting is rare in the kingdom. Saturday's elections were the third time citizens have cast municipal ballots. The late King Abdullah, who died in January, issued a decree in 2011 authorizing women to vote.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list