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Saudi Arabia's King Fahd rules out Western-style elections

Published Oct. 11, 2005

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, in an interview published Saturday, ruled out the adoption of Western-style democracy, saying it was not compatible with his country.

The monarch also denied that his recent tentative moves toward democratization were dictated by international pressure in the aftermath of the gulf war.

"The democracy systems prevailing in the world are systems which in their structure do not suit this region and our people," the king said in the interview published in Abu Dhabi's Al-Ittihad newspaper and the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassah.

"Our nations in their makeup and characteristics are different from those of that world, and we cannot import a method that others use to apply to our peoples," he said.

After the gulf war, some Western critics questioned why they should defend Arab monarchies where democracy is non-existent.

Saudi Arabia is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a 10-year-old alliance that includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. Of the six, only Kuwait has an elected parliament, but it does not allow political parties.

The Kuwaiti parliament has been disbanded since 1986, although for a new one are scheduled for October.

Fahd recently announced he would name a long-promised consultative council to advise him on public opinion. The decision moved his ultraconservative kingdom of 12-million a step closer to popular participation in the government.

But he denied Western pressure played any role in the move.

"This is totally baseless talk, and those who repeat it do not know the reality of this society and its makeup, roots and traditions," he said. The council, or Majlis al-Shura, was being developed for a long time on the basis of the Islamic laws, Fahd said.

In the interview, the king said, "Islam is our social, political and economic system, and Islamic sharia (law) is its own comprehensive constitution . . . comprising social justice, economic justice, the system of rule, the judiciary, everything."

Fahd said elections are not mentioned within Islamic law, but through consultation, "the guardians are fully responsible to their people."