Victory or loss, Saudi women rejoice after vote

At least 20 women won municipal council seats in Saturday’s poll, far exceeding expectations inside Saudi Arabia

Published: Updated:

A number of Saudi women candidates for the municipal elections who failed to make it this time did not regret the experience of running for the elections and said they would again run for the next elections four years from now.

They said the experience was fruitful regardless of success or failure.

“My candidacy was a dream come true. I was not disheartened by my failure,” said Miaad Sami Shaqra, a candidate who failed to win.

Gaining experience

She said her defeat would not deter her from running for the elections next time. “The experience has motivated us for constructive participation in decision making and the shouldering of responsibility for the homeland and citizens,” she said.

Aisha Al-Rouqi, who also failed to secure a seat in the municipal council, said she had no regrets, rather she was feeling proud that she was no longer an idle spectator.

“It is true that I did not succeed, but this is not the end of the world. The participation of women in the elections is a great success for the Kingdom,” she said.

Al-Rouqi said Saudi women candidates and voters have proven to the entire world that Saudi women are courageous enough and qualified to enter all walks of life.

Haya Al-Atyani echoed Al-Rouqi feelings. “I was not counting too much on success, but this is an experience which I proudly tried,” she said.

Nadia Bukhara, another candidate, said, “Regardless of the success or failure, Saudi women did not shy away from contesting.”
Abeer Fakira said she had gained a lot of experience from exchanging ideas with women voters. “I did not succeed this time but

I will not be discouraged from contesting next elections,” she said.

Historic step

Hatoun Fasi, the general coordinator of Baladi campaign in Riyadh which spearheaded the call for women participation in municipal elections, said that winning was a bonus for women as they had already succeeded when over 1000 of them managed to participate as candidates in the elections.

Manal Al-Sharif, a journalist from Jeddah, considers this a historic step.

“We were afraid of women participation. However, all negative thoughts have been defeated by the courage of female candidates, who presented professional campaign programs and showed concern on civic city issues.

Men too commended the women for their victory. Ali Al-Kushaiban, a writer in Al-Riyadh newspaper, said that he felt proud of his nation.

The United States welcomed Saudi Arabia’s first ever election open to female voters and candidates, calling it a historic milestone.

At least 20 women won municipal council seats in Saturday’s poll, far exceeding expectations inside Saudi Arabia.

“The participation of women represents an important step forward in Saudi Arabia toward a more inclusive electoral process that will ensure all citizens are represented in a government accountable to all Saudi citizens,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

“As we have long said, the inclusion of all citizens in voting and governance is critical to the prosperity, stability, and peace of all nations, and we welcome this historic milestone.”

The 20 female candidates represent just one percent of the roughly 2,100 municipal council seats up for grabs, but even limited gains are seen as a step forward for women.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Dec. 15, 2015.