Saudi King Abdullah has for the first time appointed 30 women to the country’s parliament, according to a royal decree. The decree gives women a fifth of the Shura Council, which is the formal parliament of the conservative, oil-rich kingdom but has very limited powers. All its 150 members are appointed by the king.
In 2011, Abdullah pledged to allow women to run for and vote in municipal elections, the country’s only polls, as part of his reform drive. The next election is set for 2015.
Saudi women are also not allowed to drive, and cannot travel unless they are accompanied by a male guardian or are over 45 years of age.