Since August 22, women in Saudi Arabia are allowed to register to vote for the municipal elections in December, the first time they are allowed to do so, as well as stand for office. Nevertheless, local reporting indicates that since that date, only 16 women have actually signed up to vote. However, Fawziya Al-Hani, an activist who is promoting voter registration among women says she expects the numbers will pick up once the women’s suffrage movement gains more visibility. Ali Alyami, the director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, also expects much greater numbers, adding that the registration process is done in stages, and likely to pick up once the process spreads out of the major cities. But Sam Coogle, a Saudi Arabia researcher for Human Rights Watch is less optimistic. He argues that giving women the vote was largely of symbolic importance, as the average Saudi cares little about municipal elections, and the system of “male guardianship” in the kingdom will logistically prevent most women from registering to vote.
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