07/06/2007, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Concept of elected parliament in Riyadh faces opposition

Senior members of the royal family and religious leaders appear to be opposed to democratic reforms in the Shura Assembly, where membership is currently by royal appointment. King Abdullah had appeared to be open to the possibility.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – There will be no direct elections to the Shura assembly (the Saudi parliament): a high-ranking member of the Saudi royal family has appeared to exclude them in the wake of comments made by King Abdullah some days ago, which implied such an option may be possible. Currently the members of the assembly, all men, are appointed by the king.

“When I go to the Shura assembly I meet members who are of the finest calibre in the country. It’s not important how they got there, it’s important how they are,” the Interior Minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, said.

Last week, King Abdullah, in an interview with the official news agency SPA, did not exclude chances of reform of the Council. Responding to a question about the possibility of parliamentary elections, he said: “We think the Shura Council does represent Saudi society and we are happy with its performance.” However, he continued, “we are indeed looking forward to more effectiveness and we will not hesitate to support any step that enables it to develop its performance to the ideal level.”

Acceding to the throne in 2005, King Abdullah promised a programme of cautious reforms and in the same year, it was made possible to elect half the members of municipal councils. This gave rise to hopes of elections to the Shura too.

This option faces tough opposition from senior members of the royal family as well as the religious establishment which fears a loss of power.

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