Saudi Arabia sees first female voter registrations

Voter registration began in the Two Holy Cities on Sunday, a week earlier than the rest of the Kingdom

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They don’t know each other, and are separated by about 450km, but Jamal Al-Saadi and Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat became the first two Saudi women to register as voters for the upcoming third municipal elections in Madinah and Makkah respectively.

“The participation of the Saudi women in the municipal elections as voters and candidates was a dream for us,” Saadi said. “The move will enable Saudi women to have a say in the process of the decision-making.”

Voter registration began in the Two Holy Cities on Sunday, a week earlier than the rest of the Kingdom. Both women said they had thoroughly prepared all the documents they would need so that nothing would stop them from participating in elections for the first time.

“I was quite ready for this day,” Saadi said. “I have prepared all the documents needed to obtain a voter's card. This is a nice experience to go through. We are just at the beginning of the road.”

Shamat said she had left home extra early because of her determination to register.

“I was the first woman to arrive at the center,” she said. “I was the first to register and the first to obtain a voter's card in Makkah.” Shamat added that is was a national duty for women to participate in the elections.

In Madinah, Saadi didn’t dismiss the possibility of nominating herself for candidacy.

"I may have such ambitions — I love to go through this experience till the very end.”

She made it clear that if she didn’t run as a candidate herself, she would vote only for the candidate whose bio-data is very well known to her and who has a good program to serve the country and its people.

Saadi is a businesswoman, and she has chaired the real estate committee of the Madinah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She is well known among the city’s intellectual, cultural and literary circles.

In Makkah, Shamat is a teacher at one of the city’s girl’s schools, and volunteered for the summer camps organized in the city this year. In addition to Shamat, four other women in Makkah also registered on Sunday to vote.

Makkah’s election coordinator, Ihab Al-Rifaie, said the low turnover of women was due to the fact that Sunday was the first day for registration, and that he expected the number of women registering to increase with time.

The youngest woman to register so far was Aliyah Al-Diais, who just turned 18, while the first man to register was Mazen Al-Mutairi, according to Al-Hayat newspaper on Monday. Voter registration lasts for 21 days.

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