March 1

Calls for Saudi constitutional monarchy

More than 100 Saudi academics, activists and businessmen are calling for Saudi Arabia to be turned into  a ''constitutional monarchy'', according to the French newspaper Le Figaro (8/2).

This would be a revolution. Saudi Arabia has little in common with a constitutional monarchy (see below).

The statement  said the kingdom is facing a “prevalence of corruption and nepotism, the exacerbation of factionalism, and a widening in the gap between state and society.’’

They said oil wealth should be better distributed to the people instead of being channeled to expensive projects with few immediate benefits.


…reform demanded…

 ''We will submit these requests to King Abdullah at a later stage,'' said Khaled al-Dakhil, a teacher of political science at the King Saud University and one of the 123 signatories of the petition.

''We have high hopes that these reforms will be implemented. Now is the time.''The petition calls for the election rather than appointment of a consultative council, and the creation of a constitutional monarchy – a demand that led to the arrest of activists in 2003-04.It also calls for greater participation of women in social and political life.

A  protest is being called for 11 March . It is not clear if the statement and protest call are connected.

…little to do with constitutional monarchy…

[Continued below]

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy in which executive, legislative and judicial powers are vested in the King. This is very different from, say, the mother of constitutional monarchies, England,  where the separation of powers first developed. 

The King is chosen by the Royal Family from among sons and grandsons of the first king, Abdul Aziz Al Saud and then approved by the ulema, the religious leadership.

In practice the monarch normally  designates an heir apparent to the throne who serves as Crown Prince of the Kingdom.

The Royal Family, the House of Saud, is more a clan or a tribe, consisting of between 7,000 to 20,000.

Religious police, directly under the King, strictly enforce Sharia law in relation to forbidden sexual practices, eating forbidden food, drinking alcohol, listening to or seeing forbidden material, breaches of dress rules and  performing or attending Christian and other non-Islamic religious services.

The Saudis have spent billions propagating a strict form of the Sunni branch of Islam, Wahhabism, through the endowment of mosques, schools and social outlets in other countries, ironically, in those guarenteeing freedom of religion.


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