Saudi Arabia to Allow Women to Vote Starting 2015

Women of Saudi Arabia will be able to vote in local elections starting 2015, the country’s ruler, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud announced Sunday. The change of law will be enacted after municipal polls on Thursday.

The 88-year-old monarch also said that Saudi women will have the right to be appointed to the Shura Council, the formal advisory body of Saudi Arabia and a governmental body with the next greatest power after the king.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy and municipal elections are the only public polls in the country, according to the BBC.

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"Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with Sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior clerics and others... to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from next term," King Abdullah said in a statement, according to BBC. "Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote."

Still, during the Thursday elections, only men will vote.

King Abdullah has reportedly been cautiously pressing for political reforms. However, Saudi Arabia is a country where conservative clerics and some members of the royal family resist liberalization.

The change in the law comes after many women advocacy groups have called for respecting the civic rights of Saudi women.

Saudi women are not permitted to perform certain actions in public, like traveling abroad or driving.

Back in June, a number of Saudi women were openly driving cars across the country as a means of protest against that socially restricting ban. Some women were seen at the time driving to stores. Others reportedly made trips in their cars without their usual male chauffeurs, which is also illegal.

It was not clear whether the women had the support of their husbands, but observers said at the time that some men did not try to prevent their wives from participating in the protest.

The “driving protest” began at the time as a move similar to the revolutionary pro-democracy movements sweeping across the Arab world.

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