Women remain barred from voting as Saudi Arabia announces elections

Elections for municipal councils will be only the second the country has ever held, but after two-year delay to consider giving votes to women, females will still not be allowed to participate.
RIYADH // Saudi Arabia has announced it is to hold municipal elections next month after a two-year delay that had angered rights activists.

The electoral commission director, Abdul-Rahman al Dahmash, said in a statement yesterday that the elections would take place on April 23.

The kingdom held its first municipal elections in 2005, which were the first held under the absolute monarchy.

Half the seats are elected while the rest are appointed. The councils have little power and women are not allowed to vote or run.

The government said in 2009 it would delay the election for two years to explore the possibility of allowing women to vote.

But the government ministry in charge of the voting said yesterday that women would not cast ballots next month.

Meanwhile, Saudi demonstrators gathered outside the interior ministry yesterday morning demanding the release of political prisoners held without trial, Mohammed al Qahtani, a Riyadh-based activist, said.

Mr al Qahtani, who is the head of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, said he saw police detain about half of the estimated 100 protesters and place them on buses.

A similar rally was held earlier this month.

* Associated Press and Bloomberg

Published: March 23, 2011 04:00 AM


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