Six women were elected to public office during yesterday’s municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, as preliminary results showed today in official media. It was the first time women in the country were allowed to vote and run for public positions.
Lama al-Suleiman and Rasha Hufaithi for Jeddah, Hanouf al-Hazimi for the province of Al Jouf, Salma al-Oteibi in the region of Mecca and Sanaa al-Hammam along with Masoumah Abdelreda in the region of Ahsa, were some of the female politicians elected by voters on Saturday.
There were still some complaints towards the process, though. Some claim that there were certain restrictions obstructing the newly acquired right to vote, such as troubles with the recognition of women’s identity and residency, the lack of enough registration centers, and the campaign supposedly not being publicized enough inside the country, which lead to a small number of female voters despite the impact of the event on Saudi Arabia’s social norms.
According to Saudi officials, only a bit over 130,000 women voted in the election, out of almost 1.5 million people who registered to vote. Over nine hundred female candidates competed against a much larger number of 5,938 men running for public office. These are only half the seats, as the Saudi King has the right to choose the remaining half.
Saudi women reunited at the King Salman Social Center to set their main goals to achieve after the elections. Some of these goals strive for more job opportunities and higher positions in politics and academia.
While the ban on driving for women is still considered an issue, Najd al-Hababi, sibling of one of the female candidates, said it isn’t the main concern at the moment. “Let’s worry about the big things first before we get bogged down in disputes over driving. I know this is a huge thing in the West, but we have other things, bigger things, on our agenda.”