Women in Saudi Arabia are to be given the right to vote and run in future municipal elections, King Abdullah has announced.
He said they would also have the right to be appointed to the consultative Shura Council.
The move was welcomed by activists who have called for greater rights for women in the kingdom, which enforces a strict version of Sunni Islamic law.
The changes will occur after municipal polls on Thursday, the king said.
King Abdullah announced the move in a speech at the opening of the new term of the Shura Council – the formal body advising the king, whose members are all appointed.
“Because we refuse to marginalise women in society in all roles that comply with sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior clerics and others… to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from next term,” he said.
“Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote.”