Women win in Saudi Arabia elections

Historic day for Saudi women following the country's first-ever elections open to female voters and candidates.

Shoshana Miskin ,

Women in Saudi Arabia are denied many basic rights under strict Islamic law (Illustrative)
Women in Saudi Arabia are denied many basic rights under strict Islamic law (Illustrative)

At least four women were elected to municipal councils in Saudi Arabia's first poll open to female voters and candidates, initial reports Sunday said.

The female candidates were elected to three councils - two in Ihsaa governorate and one each in Tobouk and Mecca, as votes were still being counted on Sunday.

Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi was elected to the council of Madrakah, a region in Mecca, the official SPA news agency reported, citing election commission president Osama al-Bar.

Saturday's municipal poll, which was hailed by many as historic, saw a turnout of about 25 percent, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Riyadh Saad al-Saadi reported.

The participation of women in the elections has demonstrated their readiness for political empowerment despite all the challenges.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy with some of the world's tightest restrictions on women, including a ban from driving and strict dress codes to cover themselves in public.

The kingdom was the world's last country to give its women the right to vote and polling stations were segregated during Saturday's vote.

Amid the 6,440 candidates running for a seat, more than 900 were women, who had to overcome many obstacles to participate in the landmark poll as female candidates could not directly meet any male voters during their campaigns.

In addition, female voters said registration was hindered by factors including bureaucratic obstacles, a lack of awareness of the process and its significance, and the fact that women could not drive themselves to sign up. 

Therefore, women made up less than 10% of registered voters and few female candidates were anticipated to win.