Only 16 women register to vote in Saudi Arabia elections

The December municipal elections will mark the first time women will have the right to vote in the strict Islamic nation.

August 30, 2015 17:42
1 minute read.
Saudi Arabia women

Women in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Women in Saudi Arabia are getting ready to vote for the first time, though records show that only a minuscule amount have actually registered so far.

Accordingto a report by Al Arabiya on Sunday, only 16 women in the country of almost 28 million have registered to vote in December's municipal elections. That amounts to about 0.0000079 percent of the population within voting age.

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Harsh Islamic laws imposed on Saudi women could be behind low registration numbers. Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive, nor are they allowed to leave their house without a male family member.

Women could prove to fare slightly better in terms of candidate registration, however, which also marks the first time women can be political candidates. It was reported that an estimated 70 women were planning to run as municipal candidates, while 80 were planning to be campaign managers.

The reason for Saudi female suffrage is thanks to a 2011 ruling by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who passed away on January 23. The ruling initially made it possible for women to take part in the unelected, advisory Shura Council, which vets legislation but has no binding powers.

He said at the time that he gave women voting rights "because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with sharia."

Women's rights are regarded as a litmus test for the government's appetite for social and political reform, though change has not been made on other women's issues.


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