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Saudi Arabia: Women take step closer to municipal elections - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English
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Saudi Arabia: Women take step closer to municipal elections

A Saudi woman looks at her mobile as she walks through a coffee shop in the capital Riyadh on June 17, 2013 AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE
A Saudi woman looks at her cell phone as she walks through a coffee shop in the capital, Riyadh, on June 17, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi women will be able to stand and vote in the municipal elections scheduled for next year, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs confirmed in a statement on Tuesday.

Saudi Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs Prince Mansour Bin Miteb confirmed that “women have the right to contest the elections just like men, without facing any discrimination,” adding that Saudi women will also be issued campaign permits.

Recent reports claim that up to 22 women are expected to contest next year’s municipal council elections.

According to the statement, the arrangements and regulations governing women’s participation in the civic elections will be in compliance with Islamic Shari’a law and international standards of gender equality.

“Arrangements, procedures and measures have been developed in line with legal provisions and taking into account international norms and standards for elections,” the Ministry of Municipality Affairs said in the statement.

“These emphasize equality between all participants, men and women, in the electoral process. There is no distinction between anyone and everyone is treated according to the same standard in those arrangements, procedures and measures. All have the same rights and the same duties at all stages of the electoral process and requirements.”

Female officials will be appointed to monitor the implementation of election regulations, receive complaints, issue campaigning permits and register male and female campaign staff to operate on behalf of female candidates.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Saudi Shura Council member Dr. Lubna Al-Ansari lauded the Municipal and Rural Affairs Ministry statement, saying that it represents a clear admission of Saudi women’s social presence on the part of the ministry. She called for greater female empowerment in the fields of decision-making in Saudi Arabia.

Ansari urged Saudi women to take advantage of the new legislation allowing women to stand for municipal council seats.

Cultural Attaché at the Saudi Embassy in Washington Dr. Samar Al-Saqqaf also praised the ministry’s statement, describing women’s participation in municipal elections as a “quantum leap” in terms of empowering Saudi women.

“I have worked with a group of businesswomen in Jeddah to set up the Baladi Jeddah initiative with the participation of a number of female Saudi academics and lawmakers. Its mission is to address municipal problems, whether pertaining to the environment, health or planning,” she said.

Saudi economic expert and academic Dr. Naeema Al-Bouqri told Asharq Al-Awsat: “These elections are the first of their kind on the municipal level, and we hope that they will achieve their desired goal of involving women in elections.”

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