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Saudi women get right to vote, but can't drive yet

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - Saudi Arabia's king is giving women the right to vote and run in local elections for the first time.

Saudi King Abdullah has given the kingdom's women the right to vote for first time in nationwide local elections, due in 2015. The king said in an annual speech on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011 before his advisory assembly, or Shura Council, that Saudi women will be able to run and cast ballots in the 2015 municipal elections. (Photo: Associated Press)

While King Abdullah's decree represents a giant leap forward for the ultraconservative kingdom, it's also highlighting the freedoms women are denied. Women remain ineligible to serve as Cabinet ministers. They are not allowed to drive, nor are they permitted to travel outside the country without permission from a male guardian.

Even the king's decree about political roles came with a qualifier. It won't apply until 2015. The next round of elections is scheduled for Thursday.

One prominent Saudi feminist asks: "Why not tomorrow?"

And an activist who defied the ban on women driving earlier this year says: "We didn't ask for politics, we asked for our basic rights."

King Abdullah made the announcement in a speech to his advisory assembly on Sunday, after consulting with the nation's top clerics.

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