RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- In an unprecedented development in the history of Saudi Arabia, two businesswomen were elected to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Jeddah.
The move was regarded as a reflection of social and political reforms Saudi authorities promised to introduce in the conservative Muslim kingdom where women have no significant public role.
Informed Saudi sources said Lama Suleiman and Nashwa Taher will be the first female members of the 18-member board of directors of the chamber in the Red sea port city in western Saudi Arabia.
The two ran on an electoral list of 12 members called the "Jeddah Coalition." Seventy-one candidates, including 17 women, competed for the 12 elected seats in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Jeddah. The remaining six members are appointed by the government.
Businesswoman Hossa Aoun called for the six appointed seats to be split between men and women.
At the elections held over the weekend, women could vote and stand as candidates for the first time. But the female turnout was disappointing, as only 100 out of 2,800 eligible voters cast their votes.
The elections, which were previously set for the end of September, were delayed following a decision by Minister of Trade and Industry Hashem Yamini to allow women to run as candidates.
Previously, women could vote but were barred from running for elections in the Jeddah chamber.
Women were barred from Saudi Arabia's first municipal elections held earlier this year, but officials said they will possibly be able to vote in the next elections in four years.