Saudi Arabia has announced that municipal elections will be held on 23 April, the first time elections have been held in the country since the previous poll in 2005.

The elections had been due to occur in 2009, but were delayed as the possibility of allowing women to vote was studied. However, women will not be allowed to participate in the next poll.

The elections for 178 municipalities were first held between 10 February and 21 April 2005. Women were not eligible to vote in the 2005 elections.

Seats in the municipal councils are half filled through government appointees, and the rest through elections.

The announcement that the elections are due to occur in the next month comes as Saudi Arabia faces increasing pressure to reform. A number of small protests have occurred in the kingdom, inspired by protest movements in Tunisia and Egypt. However, they have frequently encountered a heavy police presence.