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Great achievement women registering victory in Saudi polls: Najma Heptulla

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Union Minister for Minority Affairs Najma Heptulla today hailed as “great achievement” victory registered by women candidates in local body polls in Saudi Arabia and greeted the people of that country including its King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for the same.

The elections held on December 12 were historic in a sense women were allowed to vote and contest polls for the first time by Saudi Arabia.

“The success of women candidates in the municipal elections held in Saudi Arabia is a great achievement in respect of women,” the Minister said in a statement.

Heptulla, in a letter to the King, also lauded efforts made by his predecessor late Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud saying the latter’s move towards enfranchising women and for taking them on board the political decision making processes has started producing more “tangible” results.

In her message, Heptulla also recalled that she had, as President of Inter-Parliamentary Union, shared ideas on strengthening democratic institutions in Saudi Arabia by broadening avenues for participation of women in the governing agencies with the late King.

“I am happy to note that Your Majesty (King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud) is following on footsteps of your predecessor King Abdullah. Your Majesty’s patronage of these larger democratic ideas will prove to be a milestone not only for Saudi Arabia but also for the entire Islamic world,” she said in the letter.

Saudi voters elected 20 women for local government seats, a day after women voted and contested polls for the first time in the country’s history.

The victorious women hail from vastly different parts of the country, ranging from Saudi Arabia’s largest city to a small village near Islam’s holiest site.

The 20 female candidates represent just one per cent of the roughly 2,100 municipal council seats up for grabs, but even limited gains are seen as a step forward for women who had previously been completely shut out of elections.

Women are still not allowed to drive and are governed by guardianship laws that give men final say over aspects of their lives like marriage, travel and higher education.