The Saudi Illusion of Democracy

(Chicago Tribune) Editorial - There was the illusion of a democratic election in Saudi Arabia last week. It had all the trappings, including a city plastered with campaign billboards. But what happened in the Islamic kingdom should in no way be confused with a real election. Women were barred from running or voting. Half the seats were to be appointed by the royal family. Perhaps there was a time when even such a sham election would be hailed in the Middle East. But now that genuine elections have inspired millions of voters to choose their leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories, the Saudi vote looks like little more than a whisper of progress. The hunger for real elections - and real elected leaders - is out there and growing, even in countries like Saudi Arabia, where political gatherings are generally illegal and outright criticism of the royal family can bring a prison sentence. As tyrants across the world have learned, once the power of democracy is unleashed, it cannot be easily stifled. Saudi citizens, tossed a tiny scrap from the banquet of democracy, will crave more.

2005-02-15 00:00:00

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