Saudi Women Kept From Voting in Tomorrow’s Landmark Local Elections

Women are being left out of Saudi Arabia’s first municipal elections in 40 years that are taking place tomorrow to elect half of the seats on local councils. Of course, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy.

One Saudi woman who wished to remain anonymous told Agence France-Presse, “This is not new…Riyadh has always been a male-only club.” Ali ah-Ahmad, a pro-reform Saudi organization’s representative, stated that the election is only a “quarter election. It excludes women voters—that’s 50 percent—and then only 50 percent of the councils seats will be decided by voting,” according to Salon.com.

Last fall, several Saudi women announced their intention to run for local office but were soon shut down by the announcement from Saudi officials that women would not be allowed to be voters or candidates in the elections. Agence France-Presse reports that a number of Saudi officials recently announced that while women are barred from these elections, women will be able to take part in the next municipal elections. Several women’s rights activists responded to the announcements by calling on Saudi officials to appoint women to the other half of the council seats in the meantime, stating that it is their right.

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Agence France-Presse 2/7/05; Reuters 2/9/05; Salon 2/9/05; The Guardian 2/9/05; Feminist Daily News Wire 10/12/04

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