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Two women win in Saudi election November 30, 2005

The election was only for seats on the board of Jeddah’s chamber of commerce and industry, a low level local affair, but according to the BBC, analysts say this was a significant step.  Considering tradition in Saudi Arabia, and the fact that just a few months ago women were barred from running in elections or even voting in them, the fact that two women (out of 17 other women and 54 men) were elected would appear to be a major victory.

As the BBC article points out, however, the biggest surprise and victory may be in who actually voted to elect the two women. Women voted on Saturday and Sunday, and men on Monday and Tuesday, as events are still separated by the sexes. Not surprisingly, the turnout among women casting their first vote was very low… only about 100. The turnout among men? 4000. So it was only with a good amount of male voter support that Lama al-Suleiman and Nashwa Taher were elected to serve on the board (apparently shocking both of them rather badly).

Unfortunately, women will be excluded completely from Saudi Arabia’s municipal elections next February, according to this Al Jazeera article.

Prince Mansur, the head of the elections committee, on Tuesday said women will have to stay away since the authorities had little time to prepare for both genders to run and vote in the polls.

“It’s difficult, given the limited period of time we have, for ladies to participate in the elections,” the prince said.

The elections committee had a year to prepare for the polls, beginning on 10 February, in a kingdom where men and women who are not closely related enough are prohibited from mixing.

For women to participate, separate polling areas run by female election judges would have been required. Campaigning by female candidates could also have become a sensitive subject.

[…. ]

Conservatives in the segregated kingdom feel that giving freedoms to women would corrupt society.

Eh… some things are the same all over, it seems ;). 






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