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Saudi Arabia

Ban on direct campaigning irks women candidates

JEDDAH: Female candidates in the municipal elections and leaders in the women’s community described the Supreme Electoral Committee’s decision banning female candidates from addressing male voters directly and requiring them to appoint proxies or specialized companies to manage their advertising campaigns as clear and unacceptable discrimination.
They demanded reconsideration of the decision so as to ensure equality of opportunities in electoral competition, noting that the decision has resulted in great disappointment among female candidates who see the elections as a real opportunity to participate in decision making.
Many female candidates questioned the decision, which imposes a fine of SR10,000 against candidates for any violation and requires them to cover any contractual costs with specialized companies to oversee their electoral campaign.
Candidate Nassema Al-Sada said the fine contradicts campaign regulations, which stipulates candidates have a right to meet with voters, and asks how there can be any justice in the elections if the female candidate, like the male candidate, cannot directly meet with voters to discuss her campaign platform.
She said the main point of the involvement of women in the elections is their integration in the community, not isolation.
According to Mona Al-Hussein, the decision is a blow to the experience of women’s participation in the elections, and called for its reconsideration.
Zahra Abdulkareem, an employee, stressed the need to to take advantage of experiences of female Shoura council members and female doctors and officials asking, “who will cover the salary of the agent for each candidate?”
Nawal Al-Ramadan, a nurse, agreed, noting noting that the ban is an obstacle to women’s involvement in the municipal elections and must be overturned.

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