Women in Saudi Arabia vote for first time

Riyadh, Dec 12 (IANS) Municipal elections began on Saturday in Saudi Arabia in which women cast their votes for the first time.

Women also stood as candidates, another first, despite the conservative kingdom being the only nation where women were not allowed to drive, BBC reported.

A total of 978 women have registered as candidates, alongside 5,938 men.

Female candidates had to speak behind a partition during campaign appearances or be represented by a man.

About 130,000 women have registered to vote, officials said. That figure still falls well short of male voter registration, which stands at 1.35 million.

Salma al-Rashed was the first woman to register to vote. “It felt really good,” she told BBC.

“Change is a big word but the election is the way to make sure we are really represented.”

Elections themselves are a rare thing in Saudi Arabia — Saturday will be only the third time in history that Saudis have gone to the polls.

There were no elections in the 40 years between 1965 and 2005.

The decision to allow women to take part in election was taken by late King Abdullah and is seen as a key part of his legacy.

The results of the elections are expected to be announced later on Saturday.

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