Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabian King Abdullah announced that the kingdom's women would soon be allowed to vote. However, it would only be effective by 2015 and the ballots cast would only be municipal elections.
The king also allowed women to be appointed to the consultative Shura Council - which advises the king. The council started a new term when Abdullah made the announcement.
The suffrage right includes permitting the women to run as candidates.
The king said the extension of voting rights is an indicator that Saudi Arabia would no longer marginalize women in all roles that comply with sharia.
However, the reform is seen as a cautious one in Saudi Arabia's Islamic culture which still does not allow women to drive or travel alone. Observers said that the oil-rich kingdom has a lot of catching up to do compared to other countries where women have been voting for more than a century.
The right to vote is one of the three key issues that women activist in the kingdom has been fighting for the past two decades. The two others are driving and having a male relative companion when traveling.
Even if Abdullah has indicated openness to reforms that would grant Saudi women more rights he has been cautious because of conservative clerics and some members of the royal family who are against the changes.
Among the reforms are non-segregated universities and appointment of more women to senior positions.
Saudi citizens will vote for municipal posts on Thursday, however, women would have to wait for four more years before they could cast their ballots. Running for seats in local councils are about 5,000 males.
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