Saudi women denied vote, candidacy

Women may neither vote nor run in Saudi Arabia’s first nationwide elections, the government has announced, dashing hopes of progressive Saudis and easing fears among conservatives that the kingdom is moving too fast on reforms.

An electoral official cited administrative and logistical reasons Monday for the decision to ban women from the municipal elections, scheduled to be held in three stages from February 10 to April 21.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there are not enough women to run women’s-only registration centers and polling stations, and that only a fraction of the country’s women have the photo identity cards that would have been needed to vote.

Many women in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, have balked at getting the ID cards – introduced three years ago – because the photographs would show their faces unveiled.

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