Saudi Arabia: Shura council backs women voting right – in 2015


Saudi Arabia's consultative Shura council has recommended allowing women to vote in the next local polls, in at least four years, without being permitted to run for office, a member said Tuesday. Saudi men in the ultra-conservative kingdom will vote in September to elect half the members of municipal councils across the country, but Saudi women who are deprived of many basic rights, remain banned from voting.

The all-appointed consultative council, which serves as an advisory body with no legislative authority, "agreed to allow women to take part as a voters only and in the next elections" expected in 2015, the council member told AFP requesting anonymity.

He said that the decision was taken as "registration for voters in the coming elections (in September) has been closed," 18 days ago.

The recommendation will need to be agreed by King Abdullah to find its way to implementation.

More than 60 Saudi intellectuals and activists called last month for a boycott of the ballot, because municipal councils lack authority and as women remained banned from participating.

The municipal election in Saudi Arabia, the only form of public vote in the conservative kingdom, is to be held on September 22.

In May 2009, the government extended the term of municipal councils by two years. The kingdom's first vote was held in 2005, when half the members of 178 municipal councils were elected while the rest were named by the government.

In addition to the vote ban, women are not allowed at all to drive, while they cannot travel without authorisation from their male guardian. When in public, they have to cover from head to toe.

© 2011 AFP