Jeddah // Saudi women began to register as candidates on Sunday for the first municipal elections in which they are being allowed to take part.
Registration for women voters began earlier this month at special centres run by all-female staff.
About 200 women have expressed interest in running as candidates in the December 12 vote, the state-funded Al Hayat newspaper reported this month.
Candidate registration is to run until September 17, while voter registration ends on September 14.
Of 1,263 polling stations in 284 municipalities across the Saudi Arabia, 424 have been reserved for women voters.
The late King Abdullah in 2011 granted women the right to vote and run as candidates in this year’s local elections, saying: “We refuse to marginalise women’s role in Saudi society.”
Women in Saudi Arabia are banned from driving and have to cover in public from head to toe. They also have to obtain the consent of a male guardian to travel, work, apply for a passport or to marry.
“I am very excited to take part in this new experience,” said Amal Mohammed, 35, as she registered to vote in the port city of Jeddah.
King Abdullah, who died in January, introduced municipal elections to Saudi Arabia in 2005 when he was crown prince.
This year, two-thirds of municipal council members will be elected and the rest appointed by the authorities. In the last, all-male vote in 2011, half of the members were elected.
The municipal councils are to be granted financial and administrative independence to encourage “participation of citizens in decision-making on matters that affect their daily lives”, said Jadee Al Qahtani, a spokesman for the local elections committee.
However, many young men remain sceptical.
“I know nothing about these elections and I’m not planning to take part,” said Majed Al Harbi, 25. “What did these councils achieve for our cities? All they do is make promises.”
In February 2013, King Abdullah also for the first time named women to Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council, the all-appointed consultative body.
* Agence France-Presse