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The fractious relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has long been a central concern in Washington. Using information gathered from extensive interviews with a plethora of officials, this book aims to analyze Saudi domestic reforms. It addresses the significant deficiency of information on such diverse matters as the judiciary and ongoing national dialogues, but also provides an alternative understanding of what motivates Saudi policy makers.
How these reforms may impact on future Saudi decision-making will surely generate a slew of policy concerns for the United States and this study offers a few clarifications and solutions. This book will be of interest to anyone seeking a new perspective on the motivation behind legal and political reforms in Saudi Arabia, and the effects of these reforms beyond the Middle East.
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Close Preview. Toggle navigation Additional Book Information. Description Table of Contents Author s Bio. He was a commoner and immensely powerful, which meant he was despised by most royals, especially the Suderis, who sacked him as soon as the old king died.
Long term political and government appointments result in the creation of "power fiefdoms" for senior princes. In the absence of national elections and political parties,  politics in Saudi Arabia takes place in two distinct arenas: within the royal family, the Al Saud, and between the royal family and the rest of Saudi society. There were also divisions within the family over who should succeed Crown Prince Sultan. Prince Nayef was personally committed to maintaining Saudi Arabia's conservative Wahhabi values.
Of the senior princes, he was probably the least comfortable with King Abdullah's desire for reform. Following the 11 September attacks in the United States, perpetrated mostly by Saudi nationals, Prince Nayef was strongly criticized by the U. It also took pressure from within the royal family for him to launch a hunt for Islamist militants who had attacked Western targets in Saudi Arabia.
By contrast, Prince Saud Al Faisal is one of the strongest supporters of political and social reform. Women would be able to vote in municipal elections beginning in BBC . The significance of the ulama the body of Islamic religious leaders and jurists is derived from the central role of religion in Saudi society. It has been said that Islam is more than a religion, it is a way of life in Saudi Arabia, and, as a result, the influence of the ulama is pervasive. In that year, the council was formalized in a Council of Senior Scholars , appointed by the king and with salaries paid by the government.
Not only is royal succession subject to the approval of the ulama,  so are all new laws royal decrees. By the s, as a result of oil wealth and the modernization of the country initiated by King Faisal, important changes to Saudi society were under way and the power of the ulama was in decline.
The ulama have historically been led by the Al ash-Sheikh ,  the country's leading religious family. In return, the Al ash-Sheikh support the Al Saud's political authority  thereby using its religious-moral authority to legitimize the royal family's rule.
In 5 November Saudi Arabian anti-corruption arrests , 11 princes and dozens of former ministers were detained in a new anti-corruption probe in Saudi Arabia. The official line is that the purge was in response to corrupt practices by the accused and that the anti-corruption committee has the right to issue arrest warrants, impose travel restrictions and freeze bank accounts. It is also empowered to investigate financials and freeze assets until cases are decided on.
The Royal proclamation further said "due to the propensity of some people for abuse, putting their personal interest above public interest, and stealing public funds. The creation of the Consultative Council in the early s did not satisfy demands for political participation, and, in , an annual National Dialogue Forum was announced that would allow selected professionals and intellectuals to publicly debate current national issues, within certain prescribed parameters.
In , the first municipal elections were held.
Saudi Arabia Needs Reforms, but Risks Abound
In , the Allegiance Council was created to regulate the succession. In , Abdullah announced that women will be able to be nominated to the Shura Council. Politics in Saudi Arabia, outside the royal family, can be examined in three contexts: the extent to which the royal family allows political participation by the wider Saudi society, opposition to the regime, and Islamist terrorism. Outside the House of Al Saud, participation in the political process is limited to a relatively small segment of the population and takes the form of the royal family consulting with the ulama, tribal sheikhs and members of important commercial families on major decisions.
Tribal identity remains strong and, outside the royal family, political influence is frequently determined by tribal affiliation, with tribal sheikhs maintaining a considerable degree of influence over local and national events. The rule of the Al Saud faces political opposition from four sources: Sunni Islamist activism, liberal critics, including an underground green party, the Shia minority — particularly in the Eastern Province ; and long-standing tribal and regional particularistic opponents for example in the Hejaz.
On 29 January , hundreds of protesters gathered in the city of Jeddah in a rare display of protest against the city's poor infrastructure after deadly floods swept through the city, killing eleven people. In March , crown prince Mohammed bin Salman faced severe criticism from British opposition figures during his visit to the United Kingdom.
Salman was accused of funding extremism in the UK, committing human rights abuses domestically, and breaching international humanitarian law in Yemen with the on-going war , where millions are on the verge of famine. Since , Saudi Arabia has been affected by its own Arab Spring protests.
The lack of critical thought in the education system has been cited by some as the reason why fewer protests occurred in the Kingdom. Regional governors are appointed, usually from the royal family, and preside over one or more municipal councils, half of whose members are appointed and half elected. The governors are responsible for such functions as finance, health, education, agriculture, and municipalities. The consultative principle operates at all levels of government, including the government of villages and tribes.
Saudi Arabia Needs Reforms, but Risks Abound - Providence
In February , the first elections in Saudi Arabian history were held. The elections for "virtually powerless" municipal councils were for half the seats the half of each council's seats were appointed. Women were not allowed to stand for office or to vote. There was evidence of much greater interest in the Shia community of the Eastern Province. In , candidates tended to be local businessmen, activists and professionals. Although political parties were not permitted, it was possible to identify candidates as having an Islamist orientation, a liberal agenda or reliant on tribal status.
The Islamist candidates tended to be backed by public figures and the religious establishment and won most of the seats in the Saudi cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah , Medina , Tabuk and Taif. Candidates with "Western sympathies or any suspicion of secularism" lost out heavily to "hardline conservatives who were endorsed by the local religious establishment.
In , a Saudi commentator noted that the municipal councils were proving to be powerless. Nevertheless, the elections represented an important step in modernizing the regime. Although male-only municipal elections were held again on 29 September ,   Abdullah announced that women will be able to vote and be elected in the municipal elections. In March , King Fahd issued several decrees outlining the basic statutes of government and codifying royal succession for the first time.
The King's political reform program also provided for the establishment of a national Consultative Council , with appointed members having advisory powers to review and give advice on issues of public interest. It also outlined a framework for councils at the provincial or emirate level. In September , King Fahd issued additional reform decrees, appointing the members of the national Consultative Council and spelling out procedures for the new council's operations.
He announced reforms to the Council of Ministers, including term limitations of 4 years and regulations to prohibit conflict of interest for ministers and other high-level officials. The members of 13 provincial councils and the councils' operating regulations were also announced. The membership of the Consultative Council was expanded from 60 to 90 members in July , to in May , and to members in Membership has changed significantly during each expansion of the council, as many members have not been reappointed. The role of the council is gradually expanding as it gains experience.
Saudi Municipal elections took place in and some journalists saw this as a first tentative step towards the introduction of democratic processes in the Kingdom, including the legalization of political parties. Other analysts of the Saudi political scene were more skeptical.
He also removed Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaidan as head of the Supreme Judicial Council and appointed the first female minister. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Saudi Arabia. King and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Mohammad bin Salman. Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Legal system. Recent elections. Municipal: Administrative divisions.
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Regions Governorates. Foreign relations. Other countries Atlas. Main article: King of Saudi Arabia. Main article: House of Saud. Main article: —13 Saudi Arabian protests. The Organisation for World Peace. Retrieved 19 August World Future Fund. Forbes LLC. Forbes Magazine.