For the first time, women in Saudi Arabia have the right to vote and run for election. Saudi is the last country in the world to grant women suffrage. Nine hundred women and nearly 6,000 men ran for the competitive 284 open seats. Eighteen women won seats. Many were not running to win but merely for the milestone that they had achieved. In Saudi Arabia, women are banned from driving and most dress conservatively, covering their heads in public.
Women are also not allowed to be seen with unrelated men in public. This raised an issue in regards to campaigning. Elections in the West are notorious. Some countries have very strict rules, like no campaign ads on TV until 60 days from the election. Others are more open, such as the U.S., but many have a very specific style for campaigning, attack ads, etc. The women in Saudi Arabia were very creative with their campaigning. If they could not speak to the men, they gathered male supporters and had these supporters campaign for them. Others took to social media, a growing trend worldwide for campaigns. Some female candidates held rallies, for men and women separately, and lured voters with free kabobs and cotton candy. However, the most creative campaign strategy involved a popular group of stand-up comedians. These comedians would campaign for certain women and perform in person at all male-rallies. In an NPR interview with Yasser Bakr, a comedian in Saudi Arabia, he said:
“The kind of dirt you would find in Saudi is that this female candidate would be saying about the other female candidate that, don’t vote for her, all of her bags are knockoffs. They’re not original Channels.”
The celebration continued, in true Arab fashion, with coffee and treats. Women celebrated by taking selfies after voting and many generations came out to vote.
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