It has its defenders and a place of economic and strategic importance in the world, but Saudi Arabia’s failure to embrace a more democratic system may prove problematic in the long term, writes David Watts in the wake of a recent seminar on the kingdom.
To its critics it’s a medieval monarchy that tolerates something akin to slavery, while its supporters point to its vital role in underpinning the global economy by pumping extra oil supplies to keep prices at bay while promoting Middle East peace.
However Saudi Arabia is viewed, it inspires strong opinions and cannot be ignored in either regional or global terms as attendees at a seminar on the kingdom, organized by the South Asia and Middle East Forum in the House of Commons, discovered. But more than one speaker warned that despite its importance as a security and economic ally of the West, particularly, it is in danger of becoming dangerously anachronistic as a ‘monarchial autocracy’ as the waves of democracy sweep across the globe and right up to its shores in the form of the Arab spring.
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