For the first time in the kingdom’s history, women will be able to vote and run for office in Saudi Arabia’s municipal elections, scheduled to take place in December. The policy change was approved by the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in 2011. Local media estimate that 70 women are looking to register as candidates, while an additional 80 will register as campaign managers. Awzia Abu Khalid, a political sociologist at King Saud University, believes this new milestone reflects a change in how women’s rights are viewed in Saudi Arabia. She told Al Jazeera, “I think there is the realization from different groups, including the conservative groups, that what happened in the past, where their voice was the only representative in society, would no longer continue.” Other experts remain more critical, and believe this will affect little actual change for women in the kingdom. Ali al-Yami, director of the Washington DC-based Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, for example, argued that “women’s rights will remain elusive at best, as long as discrimination against them is institutionalised and severely re-enforced by the state’s agencies.” So far, two women have officially registered to vote.
Read the full story at Al Jazeera.