A woman has been elected to the town council of Madrakah in western Saudi Arabia. Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi ran in the first round of ballots contested by women in the country’s history.
Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi made history on Sunday by being elected to a municipal council seat in a town near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, officials announced. Oteibi beat seven men and two other women to the council of Madrakah in the kingdom’s first election open to female voters and candidates.
Saudi Arabia was the last country in the world to allow only men to vote, and conditions for women were still highly restricted for Saturday’s ballot. Female candidates were forbidden from meeting directly with male voters during the campaign and polling stations were segregated.
Many female candidates used social media to promote themselves, but several womens’ rights activists said they had been disqualified by local governments from participating.
Ahead of the local elections, women complained that registration was hindered by bureaucratic hurdles and lack of transport to the polls. Due to this, only about 10 percent of registered voters were female.
Despite this, of the 6,440 candidates who ran for local council seats, around 900 were woman. According to German news agency DPA, Oteibi was joined by two other female victors across the country, a huge leap in a nation where women are still not allowed to drive.
The oil-rich ultra-conservative kingdom began slowly rolling back restrictions on women under the rule of the late King Abdullah, who announced four years ago that women could join elections beginning in 2015. However, women in Saudi Arabia still need permission from a male relative to work, travel, or marry.
es/rc (AFP, dpa)