RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 13 (UPI) — At least six women have been elected to municipal councils in Saudi Arabia after the kingdom allowed women to vote and run for public office for the first time.
Winners include Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi in the Mecca province; Lama al-Suleiman and Rasha Hufaithi in Jeddah; Hanouf al-Hazimi in the Al Jouf; and Sanaa al-Hammam and Masoumah Abdelreda in Ahsa, CNN reports.
About 130,000 women registered to vote for Saturday’s election, compared to 1.35 million men. At least 978 women registered as candidates, compared to 5,938 men.
Voter turnout was high. There were 2,100 council seats available. Although the new rights bestowed by the kingdom were welcomed, critics said restrictions made it difficult for women to participate.
Women had difficulty proving identities and residencies, according to Human Rights Watch. There were also a limited number of registration centers.
Female candidates were also banned from speaking to male voters and campaign offices had to be segregated. The election was the third time in history that that Saudis have gone to the polls. No elections were held from 1965 to 2005.