Saudi Women Register To Vote For First Time

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Riyadh: Safinaz Abu al-Shamat and Jamal al-Saadi made history last Sunday by becoming the first Saudi women to register to vote. For the first time in the kingdom's history, women will be able to vote, register as candidates and run for office in the municipal elections to be held on December 12. These will be the first polls since the 2011 decision by late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud to grant women the right to vote and run for office.

Voter registration begins on August 22, but started a week earlier in Mecca and Medina, which Shamat and Saadi call home, respectively. Candidates will be able to register beginning on August 30. An estimated 70 women are planning to register as candidates, and an additional 80 as campaign managers, according to local media. Neither male nor female candidates will be allowed to use pictures of themselves in campaign advertising, and on election day, there will be separate polling centres for men and women.

According to the Saudi Gazette, two women named Jamal Al-Saadi and Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat became the first to register as voters in their country's history when they arrived at the electoral offices in Madinah and Makkah, respectively on Sunday. In a statement released after the King Abdullah’s decision in 2011, Amnesty International said granting women the right to vote was “much overdue” and “does not go nearly far enough.”

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