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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 November 2005, 16:13 GMT
Two women win in Saudi election
Saudi designer Hanan al-Madani, candidate in Jeddah election
Women candidates are business leaders in Jeddah
Two Saudi businesswomen have been elected in the kingdom's first ballot in which women were allowed to stand.

Lama al-Suleiman and Nashwa Taher were among 12 successful candidates voted onto the board of Jeddah's chamber of commerce and industry.

The turnout was low and the election was only a local affair, but analysts say it is a significant step.

Earlier this year women were barred from voting or standing in elections for seats on local councils.

"I'm happy, but I'm still in shock," said mother-of-four Mrs Suleiman, 39.

"It's a big leap for Saudi women, an answer to what people want," she told AFP news agency.

Male support

Seventeen women competed with 54 men for seats on the board.

Women voted on Saturday and Sunday, and men on Monday and Tuesday, in line with Saudi restrictions on unrelated men and women mixing in public places.

But the turnout was low among the female electorate, with only 100 women voting compared with about 4,000 men.

That means the women were elected with strong support from their male counterparts.

In general, voting is still a novelty in the kingdom, says BBC analyst Roger Hardy - and for the many Saudis who want reform, progress has been painfully slow.

Eight months after the elections for the all-male municipal councils the councils have yet to meet.

King Abdullah has made the promotion of women in society a priority of Saudi Arabia's 2005-2009 development plan, but the authorities have emphasised it will have to be in line with what they see as the principles of Islam.

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