Elections in Saudi Arabia are rare. Municipal elections were last held in 2015, the first time women had the right to vote and stand as candidates.[1]


The first municipal elections in Saudi Arabia took place in the mid-1920s in the Hijaz cities of Mecca, Medina, Jeddah, Yanbu and Taif, as King Abdulaziz ibn Saud established local governments to replace Ottoman and Hashemite rule. Elections for other municipalities were held between 1954 and 1962 during the reign of King Saud, an experiment that ended under the centralization of King Faisal.[2]

In 2005, elections for half of the municipal councilors were held, with men aged over 21 voting for male candidates. In May 2009, elections scheduled for October were postponed so authorities could consider expanding those eligible to vote, including women.[3] Women were not granted franchise until after the 2011 elections, which drew condemnation from Human Rights Watch; some female activists planned 'parallel' municipal councils following the vote.[4][5][6]

Saudi Arabia's Consultative Assembly (Majlis ash-Shura) is wholly advisory in function, with 150 appointed members and the Speaker, currently Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al ash-Sheikh, appointed by the King.[7] Political parties are outlawed.

Women's participation

Arguments against female suffrage were that not enough women would be available to staff female polling stations (gender segregation is normal in the country) and that only a small number of women held ID cards, which would be required in order for them to vote.[8] Amnesty International called King Abdullah's 2011 announcement women could stand for election and vote from 2012 "a welcome, albeit limited, step along the long road towards gender equality in Saudi Arabia, and a testament to the long struggle of women's rights activists there".[9]

Women's rights remain a controversial subject in Saudi Arabia.

See also


  1. ^ "Saudi Arabia: First women councillors elected". BBC News. 13 December 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  2. ^ Mattheisen, Toby (2015). "Centre –Periphery Relations and the Emergence of a Public Sphere in Saudi Arabia: The Municipal Elections in the Eastern Province, 1954 – 1960". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 42 (3): 320–338. doi:10.1080/13530194.2014.947242. S2CID 143821878.
  3. ^ "Saudi Arabia postpones local elections". www.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  4. ^ "Women in Saudi Arabia to vote and run in elections". BBC News. 25 September 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  5. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Let Women Vote, Run for Office". Human Rights Watch. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  6. ^ "Saudi women aim to create their own municipal council". Al Arabiya English. 1 April 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  7. ^ "Understanding Shoura: how the Saudi consultative 'parliament' works". Arab News. 19 November 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  8. ^ "Saudi government bans women's suffrage". MSNBC. 11 October 2004. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
  9. ^ "VOTE FOR SAUDI WOMEN NO GUARANTEE OF RIGHTS". Amnesty International Website. Retrieved 27 September 2011.