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Saudi holds first ever election open to women

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Saudi holds first ever election open to women
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Riyadh: Saudi Arabia holds its first ever election open to female voters and candidates on Saturday, in a tentative step towards easing restrictions that are among the world's tightest on women.

The absolute Islamic monarchy, where women are banned from driving and must cover themselves from head-to-toe in public, is the last country where only men had been allowed to vote.

More than 900 women are running Saturday for seats on municipal councils, the kingdom's sole elected public chambers.

They are up against nearly 6,000 men competing for places on 284 councils whose powers are restricted to local affairs including responsibility for streets, public gardens and rubbish collection.

A strict separation of the sexes in public facilities meant that female candidates could not directly meet the majority of voters -- men -- during their campaigns.

Women also said voter registration was hindered by bureaucratic obstacles, a lack of awareness of the process and its significance, and the fact that women could not drive themselves to sign up.

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