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Saudi Arabia began preparing for its first nationwide elections, set for next year, and announced that voter registration would begin this week, state media reported on Sunday.

Registration will be held from Tuesday until Dec. 22, said Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Mohammed al-Moqrin, head of the elections supervisory committee in the capital, Riyadh, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Women cannot participate in the elections.

The nationwide elections, set to begin in the capital Riyadh on Feb. 10, are part of the government's measured response to calls for political and social change.

The voting for the makeup of municipal councils would give Saudis the chance to participate -- if only in a limited manner -- in decision making. Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, has an unelected Consultative Council that acts like a parliament. Political parties are banned and press freedoms are limited.

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