On Sunday, Saudi King Abdullah said he will now grant women in the country the right to vote and run in municipal elections, the only public polls in the kingdom.
According to Reuters, the King said, “Starting with the next term, women will have the right to run in municipal elections and to choose candidates, according to Islamic principles.”
A round of elections is due to take place Thursday and nominations have already been made, so women in the country will have to wait four years until the next term to participate in the electoral process.
Allowing women to participate in the electoral process is a big step forward for women’s rights in a country where females are not allowed to drive without a male in the vehicle and must have a man’s permission to work or to receive certain medical procedures. Though these rights for women in the country are new, the voting process is in an infantile state as well.
Thursday’s vote will be only the second municipal election in Saudi Arabian history; its purpose is to fill half the seats in the kingdom’s 285 municipal councils. The other half are appointed by the government. The first elections were held in 2005, but the government extended the existing councils’ term for two years.
The White House on Sunday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s move to let women vote and run for municipal office, hailing it as an “important step forward” in women’s rights in the kingdom.