Country Report Saudi Arabia May 2011

Outlook for 2011-15: Election watch

There is unlikely to be any democratic reform or any move to an elected parliament before 2015, and political parties are expected to remain illegal. (An attempt in February to launch a political party, the Islamic Umma Party, resulted in the arrest of seven of its founders.) The king appoints the Council of Ministers and the Consultative Council, which has advisory powers. There are no parliamentary elections. However, in a sop to liberals, in March it was announced that the country's second municipal elections (the first took place in 2005) will be held in September. These had originally been scheduled for 2009 but were delayed to enable further "studies" to be carried out. However, despite some minor alterations, the councils' role will continue to be restricted to an advisory capacity, and so the elections could merely encourage demands for more substantive changes. Women will not be allowed to vote, but calls for their enfranchisement will grow.

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