Female voters and candidates take part in Saudi elections for the first time
About 14 percent of the candidates in Saudi's municipal elections are women. (AFP/File)
Polling stations opened Saturday in Saudi Arabia in the first elections in which women in the conservative kingdom are allowed to vote and run as candidates.
Of the 6,917 candidates in the municipal elections, 979 are women.
Two-thirds of the seats in the kingdom's 284 councils are up for grabs. The other third of members will be appointed by the government.
Security forces were deployed around a women-only polling station in the plush quarter of Olaya in the capital, Riyadh, to keep men away.
According to the kingdom's gender segregation rules, men and women cast their ballots in separate polling stations.
Nearly 1.5 million Saudis, including 130,600 women, are eligible to vote in the elections. They are the third of their kind in the oil-rich Gulf country since the kingdom was established in 1932, according to official figures.
Polls are to close at 17 pm (1400 GMT) after nine hours of voting.
The final official results are expected to be announced Sunday.
Observers said they see slim chances for women to make big gains in this elections, arguing that many voters from both sexes are not enthusiastic about voting for female contestants.
Women's participation in the polls was decreed in 2011 by then-king Abdullah.
The monarch, who died in January, also ordered that 20 per cent of members of the kingdom's consultative Shura Council be women. The country has no elected parliament.
Saudi Arabia is dominated by the Wahhabi school of Islam.
Despite growing female representation on Saudi government bodies, activists complained that women in the country still require a male guardian to transact official business.
Women are also banned from driving in Saudi Arabia.
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