Women rest after casting their votes at a polling station during municipal elections, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 12, 2015.

Saudi Arabians voted 17 women into public office in municipal elections in the conservative Islamic kingdom, the first to allow female participation, according to a state-aligned news site.

The election was the first in which women could vote and run as candidates, a landmark step in a country where women are barred from driving and are legally dependent on a male relative to approve almost all their major life decisions.

Sabq.org, a news website affiliated with the autocratic monarchy's Interior Ministry, reported that a total of 17 women had been elected in various parts of the country. Some results had been announced on the official Saudi Press Agency, including the victories of four women.

However, the election was for only two thirds of seats in municipal councils that have no lawmaking or national powers, and follows men-only polls in 2005 and 2011.

Under King Abdullah, who died in January and who announced in 2011 that women would be able to vote in this election, steps were taken for women to have a bigger public role, sending more of them to university and encouraging female employment.

 

Source: Reuters/Angus McDowall/ Dominic Evans and Mark Potter

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