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.
Nationwide registration began on August 22, with voters and candidates from the kingdom’s two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah allowed to register a week earlier. Candidates in other provinces will be able to register on August 31.
Saudi political and social writer Hala al-Dosari said that local activists have been fighting for representation for the past decade, despite mainstream media outlets only just starting to cover the participation of women in the December poll.