Saudi King Abdullah has given the kingdom's women the right to vote for the first time in nationwide local elections, due in 2015.
The king said in an annual speech yesterday before his advisory assembly, or Shura Council, that Saudi women will be able to run and cast ballots in the 2015 municipal elections.
Abdullah says women will also be appointed to "join the all-male" Shura Council.
Saudi Arabia held its first-ever municipal elections in 2005. The kingdom will hold its next municipal elections on Thursday, but women are not allowed to vote or run this time. Women rights activists have long fought to gain the right to vote in the kingdom that applies a strict version of Sunni Islam and bans women from driving or travelling without the consent of a male guardian.
More than 5,000 men will compete in Thursday's municipal elections, only the second in Saudi Arabia's history, to fill half the seats in the kingdom's 285 municipal councils. The other half are appointed by the government. The first elections were held in 2005, but the government extended the existing councils' term for two more years.