Saudi Arabia has elected its first female local councillors in a historic step for a country where women are banned from driving and face routine discrimination. Results from Saturday’s municipal council elections indicated there were about 17 female winners. These included four in Jeddah, one near Mecca – home to Islam’s holiest site – and others in Tabuk, Ahsaa and Qatif. Several more, reported by al-Sabq online newspaper, were expected to be confirmed later. Rasha Hefzi, a prominent businesswoman who won a seat in Jeddah, thanked all those who supported her campaign and trusted her, pledging: “What we have started, we will continue.” Hefzi and other candidates used social media to contact voters because of restrictions on women meeting men and bans on both sexes using photographs.
Saudi women have won seats on municipal councils in a landmark election that allowed them to run for office and vote for the first time.
The official Saudi Press Agency said at least eight women who vied in Saturday’s election will be seated on local councils. Al Arabiya television reported at least 12. A total of 7,000 candidates, male and female, contested 2,100 seats. Official results are expected later Sunday. King Abdullah ordered the inclusion of women in municipal elections — the only nationwide vote in the absolute monarchy – before he died in January. He also named women to the 150-member Consultative Council and opened more areas of the labor market to them as part of a gradual easing of restrictions on their role in society and the economy.
Saudi Arabian women voted for the first time on Saturday in local council elections and also stood as candidates, a step hailed by some activists in the Islamic patriarchy as a historic change, but by others as merely symbolic. “As a first step it is a great achievement. Now we feel we are part of society, that we contribute,” said Sara Ahmed, 30, a physiotherapist entering a polling station in north Riyadh. “We talk a lot about it, it’s a historic day for us.” The election, which follows men-only polls in 2005 and 2011, is for two thirds of seats on councils that previously had only advisory powers, but will now have a limited decision making role in local government. This incremental expansion of voting rights has spurred some Saudis to hope the Al Saud ruling family, which appoints the national government, will eventually carry out further reforms to open up the political system.
Saudi Arabia: Saudi women are voting and running for office for the first time | The Washington Post
One candidate wants more recycling. A rival envisions community centers with day care. How about creating Western-style public libraries? asks another. These are hardly the rallying cries of revolutionaries. But, in the ultraconservative context of Saudi Arabia, such appeals are breaking new ground: They are coming from some of the more than 900 female candidates in the kingdom’s first nationwide election in which women are able to run — and vote. The balloting Saturday for municipal council seats across the kingdom — from Riyadh’s chaotic sprawl to oil-rich outposts — marks a cautious step forward in a nation where social change does not come easily. It must always pass muster through a ruling system that may be Western-allied but still answers to a religious establishment very wary of bold moves, particularly regarding the role of women. Women still cannot drive. They must receive a male guardian’s permission to travel abroad alone, and they face other daily reminders of Saudi Arabia’s strict brand of Islam and the state’s punishing stance against any open dissent. “Saudi Arabia has done a great PR job in selling these elections as part of much-touted reforms,” said Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, a Washington-based political affairs group. “The reality is that not much changes.”
Hundreds of Saudi women began campaigning for public office on Sunday, in a first for women in the conservative kingdom’s slow reform process – even as two activists were disqualified. More than 900 women are standing alongside thousands of men in the 12 December municipal ballot, which will also mark the first time that women inSaudi Arabia are allowed to vote. “I’ve been eliminated as a candidate for the municipal elections,” Loujain Hathloul said in a message on Twitter. “I will be filing my objection via the appropriate channels.” Saudi authorities detained Hathloul for more than two months after she tried to drive into the kingdom last December from the United Arab Emirates, in defiance of a Saudi ban on women driving. She could not immediately be reached but earlier told Agence France-Presse that she wanted to run “to increase the percentage of women’s participation”.
At least 120 female candidates out of a total 1,019 running for Saudi Arabian municipal council elections have withdrawn their candidatures, according to the spokesman for the National Committee for Municipal Elections Jidai al-Qahtani who was quoted on Tuesday in Arabic daily al-Hayat. He said the total number of candidates stood at 7,380, but a total of 384 candidates have withdrawn. Fifty of the candidates who withdrew were from Riyadh. The last day for withdrawal in Riyadh was on Thursday 19 Nov. All remaining candidates are required to go through the fourth phase and campaign for their election.
They cannot post their portraits on campaign ads. They won’t be driving to campaign rallies. And they will have to pitch to men from behind screens to comply with strict segregation laws. This is electoral campaigning for women, Saudi style. The municipal poll on December 12 is the first time that women will vote and stand in a nationwide election, which is only the third voting experiment ever to be held in the conservative kingdom. It is, moreover, a partial election, with only half the seats up for grabs, the rest appointed. And, to top it all, the councils have limited authority. And yet, instead of frustration, I saw excitement in the faces of women running in the elections. For Saudi suffragettes, change comes at such a slow pace that every little step helps.
Saudi Arabian women standing for election will not be allowed to publish photographs of themselves or address men directly at campaign meetings. The government has published the list of the women who are standing in the local council elections next month. Women will be voting for the first time after they were granted limited voting rights in 2011 by the late King Abudullah. More than a 1,000 women have applied to become candidates for the election. But the candidates themselves are not too optimistic about their chances; the kingdom’s tight laws govern the separation of the sexes and make it hard to campaign.
When voter registration opened in August, few of Rana’s friends noticed, and the 25-year-old recent college graduate drew curious looks when she brought it up. None of them were planning to participate in Saudi Arabia’s Dec. 12 municipal elections — the first vote in which women will be allowed to stand as voters and candidates. “My friends know about the election, but they are not excited about it,” she recalled on an October afternoon from her office in a Jeddah PR company. “They didn’t register [to vote].” Rana had felt differently. Sure, it was a small step, and maybe little would come of it. But she was insistent. “We need women to get into this process,” she told her friends and family — and herself. “Women can do things for society.” But in Rana’s case, those things don’t include registering to vote. Rana ticked off the many obstacles she encountered. The window for registration was too brief, the documentation required too onerous, and her legal guardian — which all Saudi women require for even the most basic bureaucratic chores — wasn’t around to arrange her paperwork. And her family, inclined to think of politics as a man’s domain, discouraged her efforts.
Voting rights for Saudi women took another step forward this week. Female candidates began registering to run in upcoming municipal elections — and for the first time, women will be able to vote for them. Voter registration began in mid-August and goes through mid-September. Sunday marked the start of candidate registration for the Dec. 12 municipal elections. The developments came ahead of King Salman’s visit to the White House on Friday, when he and President Barack Obama are expected to discuss counterterrorism efforts, the conflicts in Yemen and Syria, and the Iran nuclear agreement.
For Haifa al-Hababi, candidacy in Saudi’s upcoming municipal elections – which are the first polls in the conservative kingdom’s history where women can run – has everything to do with setting a precedent. “I work with a lot of Saudi female students,” said Hababi, who is an architecture professor at Prince Sultan University in the capital Riyadh. “I’d like to run to give them more opportunities. By running, I’m setting myself as a role model and example for these girls’ fathers that they can do anything they want in the future.” On December 12, women will be able to register to vote and run for office in the municipal elections – a legacy from the reign of the late King Abdullah, who died in January this year.
News this week that women are registering to vote in elections in Saudi Arabia has garnered plenty of attention. The move, described by the kingdom as a “significant milestone in progress” is in keeping with a 2011 royal decree permitting women to run and vote in municipal polls to be held in December. But before we celebrate a step toward equality in one of the world’s most notoriously misogynist countries, it is important to look a little closer at this supposed reform. The reality is that when you view this change in the wider context of Saudi Arabia’s extreme and expanding political repression, it is clear that it is an advance on paper only. Indeed, the right to vote in thoroughly closed political systems is essentially meaningless — what do you vote for in a system that effectively forbids meaningful political opposition of any kind?
Saudi Arabia: Women are registering to vote in elections across the country for the first time ever | The Independent
Women are registering to vote in national elections for the first time in the history of Saudi Arabia. In what the kingdom’s officials describe as a “significant milestone in progress towards a participation-based society”, municipal elections will be held across the country later this year. And in a remarkable move for a country where women’s rights are severely limited, women have been allowed to both vote and stand for election themselves. According to the Saudi Gazette, two women named Jamal Al-Saadi and Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat became the first to register as voters in their country’s history when they arrived at the opening of electoral offices in Madinah and Makkah respectively on Sunday.
The Saudi Council of Ministers approved late Monday the Law of Municipal Councils that grants women equal rights with men to vote and contest municipal elections. In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency following the session, Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja said that the Cabinet took the decision after reviewing a report presented by Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and a Shoura Council decision. The councils will have not more than 30 members, including two-third of elected members and one-third nominated by the minister.
Saudi Arabia: Women to run and vote in local elections without male guardian permission in 2015 | The Washington Post
Women in Saudi Arabia will not need a male guardian’s approval to run or vote in municipal elections in 2015, when women will also run for office for the first time, a Saudi official said Wednesday. The change signifies a step forward in easing the kingdom’s restrictions against women, but it falls far short of what some Saudi reformers are calling for.
Shura Council member Fahad al-Anzi was quoted in the state-run al-Watan newspaper saying that approval for women to run and vote came from the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites, the Saudi king, and therefore women will not need a male guardian’s approval. The country’s Shura Council is an all-male consultative body with no legislative powers.
Several countries and international organizations have commended King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for granting voting rights to Saudi women. They include the European Union, France, Germany and the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union. The United States, Britain and Bahrain had already lauded the granting of voting rights to Saudi women describing the move as an important milestone in the history of the Kingdom.
In his address to the Shoura Council Sunday, King Abdullah gave Saudi women the right to vote and run in municipal elections as well as the right to be appointed as full members of the Shoura Council.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said the decision is an important step forward. In a press statement Monday, Michael Mann, a spokesman for Ashton, stressed the importance of all countries in the world supporting women’s participation in parliamentary life.
Saudi King Abdullah announced Sunday that the nation’s women will gain the right to vote and run as candidates in local elections to be held in 2015 in a major advancement for the rights of women in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom. In an annual speech before his advisory assembly, or Shura Council, the Saudi monarch said he ordered the step after consulting with the nation’s top religious clerics, whose advice carries great weight in the kingdom.
“We refuse to marginalize the role of women in Saudi society and in every aspect, within the rules of Sharia,” Abdullah said, referring to the Islamic law that governs many aspects of life in the kingdom.
The right to vote is by far the biggest change introduced by Abdullah, considered a reformer, since he became the country’s de facto ruler in 1995 during the illness of King Fahd. Abdullah formally ascended to the throne upon Fahd’s death in August 2005.
Saudi King Abdullah has announced women will be given the right to vote and run in municipal elections, the only public polls in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom. He also announced women would have the right to join the all-appointed Shura (consultative) Council, in an address opening a new term of the council.
“Starting with the next term, women will have the right to run in municipal elections and to choose candidates, according to Islamic principles,” he said.
This means that women will be able to take part in the elections that will be held in four years, as the next vote is due to take place on Thursday, and nominations for those polls are already in.
Chairman of the Municipal Election Commission Abdul Rahman Al-Dahmash said the participation of women in the next election as voters and candidates would strengthen the Kingdom’s electoral experience. He hoped the spirit of the National Day would encourage all Saudis to participate actively in the Sept. 29 elections.
Jedaie Al-Qahtani, spokesman of the commission, described the king’s announcement as historic. “It allows women to participate in municipal elections on an equal footing with men,” he pointed out. He said the decision came in line with the king’s desire to involve all members of the society in nation-building efforts.
Speaking about the coming elections, Al-Qahtani urged all voters to show their IDs or other identification documents when entering polling booths. Voters will be presented a list of candidates and each one is allowed to vote once. If they mark more than one candidate the vote will be invalid.
More than 5,000 men will compete in Saudi Arabia’s upcoming municipal elections: but no women, and nor will women be allowed to vote. The election commission announced the massive interest yesterday as candidates began campaigning for votes.
The elections, only the second in Saudi Arabia’s history, are scheduled for September 29 and are for half the seats in the kingdom’s 285 municipal councils. The other half are appointed by the government. Like the landmark elections for municipal council seats held in 2005, this year’s poll bans women from participating. As a result, more than 60 Saudi intellectuals and activists have called for a boycott of the ballot.
Saudi Arabia: Municipal Elections: Tough Lessons Learned from Islamic Conservatives | Eurasia Review
The Sept. 29 municipal elections in Saudi Arabia mark the second round of polling in six years and the third in almost 50 years. The latest scheduled elections ostensibly will bring Saudis closer to developing democratic ideals espoused in the West. However, the elections also have prompted criticism from Saudi activists who assert that the electoral system prevents half the population from representation by denying women the right to vote and that it gives an edge to religious conservatives.
The September elections followed a voter registration drive in May and a short period through early June that permitted candidates to register their campaigns. Ultimately, voters will go to the polls in September to elect men to 1,632 seats in 258 municipal elections. Half the municipal council seats throughout the Kingdom are appointed by royal decree. In 2005, 1,212 seats were open on 179 councils. Saudi authorities have banned women from voting or registering as candidates.
Candidates contesting in the Sept. 29 civil polls have been given 11 days from Sept. 18 to 28 for campaigning and they can use the Internet and social media for the purpose, said Abdul Rahman Al-Dahmash, chairman of the General Election Commission.
“The commission has not banned the candidates from using the Internet and electronic websites during their election campaign as long as they do not violate the general rules,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted Al-Dahmash as saying.
The General Election Commission announced on Saturday that it would not allow any illegal practices by candidates during their poll campaigns. It said as many as 5,609 are contesting the municipal council elections scheduled to be held on Sept. 29.
Jedaie Al-Qahtani, spokesman of the commission, said candidates should obtain special permission from local election committees to carry out election campaigns and publicity. “Candidates should follow certain rules and regulations during campaigns in order to avoid disciplinary action,” he said.
The commission said it had observed a number of illegal practices during the last election when some candidates formed alliances while some others circulated a list of candidates on the basis of tribes and ideological inclinations.
The Shoura Council recommended to the government on Monday that it take necessary measures to allow Saudi women to vote in municipal elections under Islamic law.
The decision was taken unanimously by members of the council, which also discussed the annual report of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs during its 38th regular session, chaired by the Shoura Chairman Abdullah Al-Asheikh in Riyadh on Sunday.