Women in Saudi Arabia will begin their official voter registration on Saturday and candidate registration will start on August 30, according to a Saudi government website. Saudi women will only be able to participate in elections at the municipal level.
Saudi women will be able to vote and run in elections held in December of this year, marking a step forward, particularly for proponents of women's rights in a country that has received heavy criticism for its gender inequality.
Various international human rights organizations had been condemning Saudi Arabia's gender policies for years in various reports.
The upcoming municipal election will be the first opportunity for women to vote. In 2011, an order by the now deceased King Abdullah was set to offer women opportunities for political participation. According to the State Department, Abdullah issued a royal decree in 2013 mandating the Consultative Council, a royally appointed body that advises the King, to be comprised at least 20 percent women.
Approximately 70 women are planning to register as nominees, along with an additional 80 as campaign managers, as reported by Saudi’s local media. Men and women will be in separate polling centres on election day and campaign advertisements will be forbidden to use photographs, not only women but men as well.
Despite the December elections, Saudi Arabia remains a monarchy ruled by the Saud family. According to the US State Department, municipal elections in Saudi Arabia filled half the seats in municipal councils, with King Abdullah selecting the other half of municipal officials.