BuzzFeed News

Reporting To You


20 Female Candidates Elected In Saudi Arabia, As Women Vote For The First Time

130,000 women registered to vote and 978 ran as candidates in the historic election.

Last updated on December 14, 2015, at 6:19 a.m. ET

Posted on December 12, 2015, at 5:46 a.m. ET

Saudi candidate Amal Badreldin al-Sawari stands outside a polling station after casting her ballot in the capital Riyadh, on 12 December 2015.
Fayez Nureldine / AFP / Getty Images

Saudi candidate Amal Badreldin al-Sawari stands outside a polling station after casting her ballot in the capital Riyadh, on 12 December 2015.

At least 20 have won seats in Saudi Arabia's municipal polls as part of the country's first-ever elections open to female voters and candidates, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.

The female candidates were elected to 10 different councils all over the country, from small cities to large ones.

The country's capital and largest city Riyadh saw the most women elected with four.

Saudi Arabia's second largest and most cosmopolitan city, Jiddah, also elected two women, as did one of the most conservative regions, Qassim, the AP reported.

Congratulations to Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi. First woman Councillor in #Saudi 👍🏼 #SaudiArabElection #Mecca

Saudi Arabia is the last country in the world to open its ballots to women. The country announced earlier this year it would do so.

Officials say that 130,000 women registered to vote in Saturday's election, although this still pales in comparison to the 1.35 million men in the country who registered to vote, according to the BBC.

It is also the first time female candidates were able to stand for election, with 978 women alongside 5,938 men vying for 284 seats. This represents two thirds of the kingdom's councils.

Fayez Nureldine / AFP/Getty Images
Jordan Pix / Stringer / Getty

Saudi women are seen after casting their ballots at a polling station in the capital Riyadh, on 12 December 2015.

Lama Al-Sulaiman, a candidate in Jeddah, told Al Jazeera that Saudi women were excited to be participating in the landmark election.

"For 10 years, I've worked on women's issues and employment, so when this opportunity came along and I had the experience, I thought, why not?" she said. "Women here are doctors and engineers – it's not like women aren't there."

Al-Sulaiman called for more women to participate, but said she respected those with ultra-conservative views.

"If we win, I hope they work with us. I've worked with such people before in the chamber of commerce and it's been enlightening to have dialogue with them. That's when fears are reduced, the fighting and aggression declines."

Lama Al-Sulaiman.
Reuters Photographer / Reuters

Lama Al-Sulaiman.

Saudi academic Hatoon al-Fassi was the first woman to register to vote in Saudi Arabia. "This is a historical moment. I thank God I am living it," she told the BBC. "Change is a big word but the election is the way to make sure we are really represented."

This is only the third time Saudi Arabia has gone to the polls in its history, according to the BBC, with no elections taking place between 1965 and 2005.

The newly introduced rights allowing women to vote and run as candidates were first announced by King Abdullah in 2011, in a significant shift from the country's hardline conservative culture.

Support our journalism

Help BuzzFeed News reporters expose injustices and keep quality news free.