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Saudi Elections

Dan Drezner has a post with links and excerpts on the recent elections in Saudi Arabia. The general thrust of Dan's sources is that the election was a "setback" for Saudi reforms and, in particuar, for the "reform-minded" Crown Prince Abdullah because Islamists seem to have one. I think the people Dan is linking to an excerpting from are playing the role of Abdullah's useful idiots here.

Dan notes that it's hardly surprising to see Islamists winning in light of the fact that it was "only one region, and a conservative one at that" and that "the decision to exclude women from the vote probably didn't help the moderates much." I also would note that the decision to prohibit political parties was a boon to the Islamists since they have, in the mosques, an institutional network of support that's legal even in the absence of political parties. To make a long story short, Abdullah did everything possible to ensure that Islamists would win the election. He also managed to ensure that no matter what the result, he wouldn't lose any real power. Upshot -- articles in the western press calling him "reform-minded" and that build the case for him not to engage in further democratization since, as we just saw, Abdullah's earnest efforts at reform are counterproductive since they just bring Islamists to power. It's everything an absolute monarch could dream of in an election. He keeps absolute power, gets credit for being a reformer, and gets off the hook in terms of pressure to reform. Meanwhile the American media will continue to assist the House of Saud in its campaign to get al-Jazeera of the air so that it can be 100 percent insulated from criticism in the Arab media, too. Abdullah is a very clever man.

February 13, 2005 | Permalink


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The general thrust of Dan's sources is that the election was a "setback" for Saudi reforms and, in particuar, for the "reform-minded" Crown Prince Abdullah because Islamists seem to have one.

The Islamists seem to have one what, Matt?

Posted by: bobo brooks | Feb 13, 2005 1:55:06 AM

yes, yes, "won." It's 2AM and I'm drunk.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Feb 13, 2005 2:09:23 AM

He's not that clever because he's not fooling anyone. He's not widely viewed as a reformer and he's not getting credit for being one. Much ado about nothing.

Posted by: QuietStorm | Feb 13, 2005 3:55:30 AM

I am not certain how much of a "reformer" he is getting credit for being, but I have noted from the transcripts of the Bush Tour, that he included the elections and praises Abdullah at every stop, monarch to monarch.

To that extent, he clearly has the full propaganda machine of Bushco behind him on putting out the reformer messaging.

Also, it's four in the morning and I'm not drunk. Now I am beginning to wonder why.

Posted by: genoasail | Feb 13, 2005 4:33:10 AM

Why exactly do the Saudis want to get the ornamently named "al-Jazeera of the air"? Does it schedule replays of popular executions?

Ok, so the above explanation is considered to apply.

Posted by: Thor's Hammer | Feb 13, 2005 4:53:30 AM

If beer is ever legalized for Islamics, the terrorists will have one . . .

Posted by: rea | Feb 13, 2005 7:29:28 AM

more drunk than you

Posted by: ak | Feb 13, 2005 8:16:02 AM


You win witticism of the week. You can pick up your prize at the printer port.


So will Matt excuse his ordinarily horrendous lack of grammar, spelling, and homophone checking this morning with the excuse of being hungover?


And for me, when I'm drunk, I tend to write notes of love and the apocalypse, not foreign policy. But I guess that's why Matt lives in the District and I don't.

Posted by: Petey | Feb 13, 2005 8:38:29 AM

Abdullah is also good with where's the pea, and GWB is right there to go wow, that's so easy anyone could win!

Posted by: John Isbell | Feb 13, 2005 9:03:29 AM

And for me, when I'm drunk, I tend to write notes of love and the apocalypse, not foreign policy.

Yeah, Matt, you need to be focused on getting sum action at 2 AM.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Feb 13, 2005 9:10:48 AM

Abdullah is a very clever man. ... He keeps absolute power, gets credit for being a reformer, and gets off the hook in terms of pressure to reform.

When was he ever on the hook? One throwaway line in the State of the Union - which as you noted - was plagiarized from a speech a year earlier?

You don't need to be clever when you're as rich as he is. You don't need to be clever when you control 25% of the world's reserve oil supply.

Abdullah's cleverness didn't get 28 pages on "alleged" Saudi ties to al Qaeda redacted from a Congressional 9/11 inquiry.

It's all about the bling (or all about the "O." O standing for oil and not overstock.com, in this case).

I doubt we will never put real pressure on him, and we will continue to be "good allies" with the Saudis, and look the other way while they continue to prepare the next generation of anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Israel/Jewish, anti-everything jihadis by spreading the most strict, exclusionary and hateful form of Islam to as many madrassas and mosques as they can get their money into.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Feb 13, 2005 10:58:59 AM

I have to admit, this is a pretty f*&^ing impressive post for a drunk person. Is this what you learn at Harvard - how to analyze foreign policy while drunk? Wow.

On topic - I guess I'm not so pessimistic about the election. Yes, the candidates that liberals (in the old sense of the word) would like to win didn't. But part of the value of democracy is transparency. And the power of the Islamist clerics and weakness of the reformists has become more transparent. Moreover, to the extent that the Islamists support the democratic process (is that contradiction? Dunno.), I'm less interested in the results. It's the process that's most important.

Posted by: Al | Feb 13, 2005 12:19:31 PM

As you would expect in the bi-coastal tennis match we all enjoy, Brad Plumer is all over this, with two posts.

Saudi Reform

praktike adds depth and detail and his usual perspicacity

Saudi Elections

One degree removed from a blogwhore is a blogpimp?
We need better trackbacking.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Feb 13, 2005 12:37:03 PM

Much ado about so called desecretion of Qoran in G`mamo camp. If it is a real abuse of the Holy book,me too is against that act. Several news and articls can be seen in saudi medias regarding this. But i would ask the Saudi authority regarding their attitude towards other faith and their Holy Books. If anyone come with a Bible or any other Holy Books to saudi Arabia ,it will be checked and thrown to the garbage in security check point at Airport-I personnaly have the same experience. Why the rest of the world keep silence in this atricities? Why the so called Human right watch dogs are not addressing this issue? Why the rest of the world keeping mum against the oppression of other faiths in saudi Arabia?
Hundreds of people are being jailed in the name of illegal gathering while they were in prayer meeting . whereas saudi Arabia is demanding all the right for muslims in all over the world and they are fighting for the same , their medias are propagating the dirty religious hatred and intolerance.

felix .M

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