First Saudi women elected to public office in local poll
Saudi Arabia on Saturday held its first elections in which women were allowed to run for office as well as vote, with at least six female municipal council candidates elected. However, it remains to be seen whether the election will mark a breakthrough for women in the conservative Islamic country.
Saudi media said turnout was high, with 1.35 million men and 130,000 women registered to vote. One of the female candidates, Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi, won a local council seat in Madrakah, Mecca province, the head of the country's election commission said.
The commission said 2,100 council seats were at stake, with nearly 1,000 women and over 5,900 men as candidates.
However, non-Saudi reports said various impediments, such as the fact that women are not allowed to drive, prevented a large number of women from registering. Among those who registered, many had to make several trips, with the help of a hired driver or male family member, to submit the required documentation.
Women not only had to vote in separate polling stations on Saturday, but they had to be driven to them as well. There was also complete separation between men and women at events during the campaign, with female candidates required to speak from behind a partition or have a man speak on her behalf.