Update December 13, 2015

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Low turnout in KSA first poll open to women

Sumel Sarker

ksa women

Low turnout in KSA first poll open to women

13 December 2015, Nirapad News: Election workers in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) were counting votes after the country’s first-ever election open to both female voters and candidates, in a tentative step towards easing restrictions on women.

Saturday’s municipal poll, which was hailed by many as historic, saw a turnout of about 25 percent, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Riyadh Saad al-Saadi reported.

The fact that this was only the third time that Saudi citizens voted in an election meant that there was still little experience with the electoral process, Saadi said.

The first local election was in 2005, and the second in 2011. Women were excluded from both.

Women are banned from driving and must cover themselves in public in the conservative kingdom, which was the world’s last country to give its women the right to vote.

The official results in the latest election were expected to be announced on Monday.

More than 900 women ran for seats. They were up against nearly 6,000 men competing for places on 284 councils whose powers are restricted to local affairs including responsibility for streets, public gardens and rubbish collection.

‘I am happy for having voted for the first time in my life,’ a woman, who declined to give her name, told the DPA news agency after leaving a polling station in the capital Riyadh.

Another female voter, Najla Harir, said, ‘I exercised my electoral right. We are optimistic about a bright future for women in our homeland’.

Hatoon al-Fassi, a Saudi women’s rights activist and writer, said in a tweet, ‘This is a new day. The day of the Saudi woman.

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