Saudi king allows women to vote
Saudi King Abdullah has given women the right to vote for first time in nationwide local elections.
The king said in an annual speech on Sunday before his advisory assembly, or Shura Council, that Saudi women will be able to run and cast ballots in the 2015 municipal elections.
He said women will also be appointed to "join the all-male" Shura Council, which is selected by him.
Saudi Arabia held its first ever municipal elections in 2005.
The kingdom will hold its next elections on Thursday, but women are not able to vote or run at this time.
The right to vote is by far the biggest change introduced by Abdullah, considered a reformer, since he became the country's de facto ruler in 1995 during the illness of King Fahd. Abdullah formally ascended to the throne upon Fahd's death in August 2005.
The kingdom's great oil wealth and generous handouts to citizens have largely insulated it from the unrest sweeping the Arab world. But the king has taken steps to quiet rumblings of discontent that largely centred on the eastern oil-producing region populated by the country's Shia Muslim minority.
Mindful of the unrest, which reached Saudi Arabia's doorstep with street protests and a deadly crackdown in neighbouring Bahrain, King Abdullah pledged roughly 93 billion dollars (£60 billion) in financial support to boost jobs and services for Saudis in March.
Seizing on the season of protest in the Arab world, Saudi women's groups have also staged public defiance of the kingdom's ban on female driving. Saudi authorities went relatively easy on the women, who took to the roads earlier this year and gained worldwide attention through social media.