09/20/2011, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Ban on Saudi women leads to election boycott

A group of intellectuals wants to protest against the decision to deny women the right to vote and to be elected. More than 1.2 million voters (but less are expected to cast their ballot) will choose among 5,000 candidates for half of the seats on the country’s 285 municipal councils. The government will pick the other half.
Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A ban on women taking part in Saudi municipal elections on 29 September has brought a call for a boycott. The latter comes from about 60 Saudi intellectuals and has been picked up by Saudi and foreign blogs who opposed the decision by the Shura Council to allow women to vote but only in the next elections, four years from now, on the grounds that it would be impossible ensure separate polling stations for men and women in accordance with the country’s ban on men and women mixing.

The boycott comes at time when the kingdom’s election commission announced the start of the election campaign with more than 1.2 million Saudi men registered to vote. Turnout is expected to be low however.

Voters can choose among more than 5,000 candidates, all men, since women are not only not allowed to vote (for now) but are also banned from running for office.

This year’s elections will be the second in the history of Saudi Arabia. The first (pictured) were held in 2005 and cover half of the seats in the country’s 285 municipal councils. The other half is appointed by the government.

The vote, the only semblance of popular participation in the country, comes at a time when most of the Arab world is shaken by a demand for democracy, something that has had little resonance in the kingdom.
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