Alhurra and Radio Sawa provided thorough coverage of the Saudi municipal elections on Dec. 12, 2015. These were the Kingdom’s first ever nationwide elections in which women were able to stand for office and vote. There were 978 female candidates and 5,938 male candidates vying for 2,106 seats on 284 councils whose powers are restricted to local affairs. The pledge to allow women to vote and run was made by the late King Abdullah following the 2011 Arab Spring political upheaval in the region.
Alhurra’s coverage featured a variety of interviews with female candidates and reports on topics such as the challenges that lie ahead for the female candidates, female political engagement, the disqualification of candidates, the female quota in municipal councils, the democratic aspirations of women, the presence of women in decision-making roles, and women’s active roles in Saudi life.
Leading up to the election, Alhurra’s Eye on Democracy dedicated an episode to the election during which a female candidate, a human rights activist, and a religious cleric discussed the General Election Commission’s restrictions on women. The program examined the limitations on female candidates’ campaigns in the ultra-conservative monarchy that imposes some of the world’s strictest limitations on women. It also highlighted the disqualification of female candidates for unknown reasons and what that means for the electoral process in Saudi Arabia. Alhurra’s Thirty Minutesdiscussed the Kingdom’s strict policy of gender segregation that complicates efforts by female candidates to appeal to men. The program hosted Naseema Al Sada, who registered as a candidate in Qatif, but was disqualified for unknown reasons. She expressed “hope that a female candidate would win in her city in this round of election” to achieve more progress on women’s rights.
Radio Sawa kept listeners abreast of the Saudi municipal elections through its news reports and interviews with analysts and human rights activists. Sawa Magazine examined how female candidates run their campaigns and the challenges facing them.
MBN’s digital properties highlighted the impact of conservatives on the democratic progress in Saudi Arabia, the participation of women in Shura Council, elections results, comments made by politicians, as well as general information about the electoral process, including the number of municipal seats and councils.