EDITORIAL: Saudi Arabia denies women the vote

King’s suffrage decree was merely a PR stunt

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

World headlines blared on Monday that women in Saudi Arabia had been granted the right to vote. This is exactly what the kingdom’s hard-line Muslim rulers wanted. It diverts attention from the fact that women will still be banned from voting in this week’s elections.

On Sunday, Saudi King Abdullah decreed that women would be able to participate and run in local elections in 2015. They also would be allowed to participate in the advisory Shura Council, whose 150 members are appointed by the king. The decree, however, is mostly important for what it does not say, which is that women are still banned from voting in the elections scheduled for Thursday. This election was originally scheduled for 2009 but purportedly was delayed for two years so the government could review the question of women’s suffrage. The decision to continue the ban on women voting in the current election cycle came down from the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs in March, making the king’s announcement nothing more than a public-relations ploy.

The royal fiat doesn’t actually mention voting. It says, “Women are entitled to nominate themselves for membership in municipal councils, and they are also entitled to participate in the nomination of candidates, according to the parameters of the true law.” It states women would be able to participate “in the Shura Council as members in the next round, according to legal parameters.” Caveats about legal parameters refer to enabling rules to come later from Saudi ministries, which aren’t guaranteed to cooperate with alacrity. The next election could be delayed like the current one, or the decree could be annulled at the king’s whim at any time.

Voting in the kingdom is hardly empowering for anyone. Elections are only held at the local level in the 178 Saudi municipalities while national policy is tightly controlled by the palace. There is no concept of individual rights or freedom of expression as Westerners understand them, and individuals are subordinated to the strictures of Shariah law.

In Jeddah on Sunday, female activist Najalaa Harrir was questioned by authorities for the crime of driving after being videotaped behind the wheel of a car. Driving restrictions have become a symbol of the countless indignities and discriminatory laws to keep Saudi women down. Despite a few democratic trappings, Saudi Arabia is still a hard-line Islamic autocracy where women have to bow, fully covered, to “the will of Allah” - and Abdullah.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts