Saudi Arabia held its second-ever municipal elections on Thursday. More than 5,000 candidates competed for 816 seats to fill half of the country's 285 councils - the other half are appointed by the government.

The first elections were held in 2005, but this second round has been delayed since 2009.

The vote comes just four days after the country's absolute monarch, King Abdullah, granted women the right to vote and run in the next municipal elections in 2015.
 
But is this ultra conservative country really opening up or is this yet another attempt to stop the spread of the Arab Spring?

Inside Story, with presenter Shakuntala Santhiran, discusses with guests: Ali al-Ahmed, the director of the Institute of Gulf Affairs; Mahjoub Zweiri, a professor of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern history at Qatar University; and Laila Alkadim, the coordinator of Baladi, a group campaigning for women's participation in Saudi Arabian municipal elections.

Source: Al Jazeera