Saudi Women Make History in Nationwide Vote

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December 13, 2015

In Saudi Arabia, where women are legally banned from driving, they both voted and were elected for the first time.

The elections were for two-thirds of the seats on the country’s 284 municipal councils. A total of 2,100 council seats were up for election; another 1,050 are filled by royal appointment.

Of the 6,916 candidates, 978 were women and 5,938 were men.

It was the third set of elections in the country’s history. The first two took place in 2005 and 2011.

Turnout this time was high, election officials said.

Of the country’s more than 20 million citizens, 1.35 million men are registered to vote; the number of women registered to vote is 131,000.

Campaign rules allowed female candidates to speak only behind a partition or be represented by a man. As well, women could vote only in polling stations reserved for them.

Early returns indicated that more than a dozen women had been elected.

The municipal councils have no national power and little local power. Still, advocates for women voting trumpeted the results as a step forward.

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