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Ekstrom Library

Government Resources: International Information: Saudi Arabia

SAUDI ARABIA

About Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The king's official title is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by ABD AL-AZIZ bin Abd al-Rahman Al SAUD (Ibn Saud) after a 30-year campaign to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula. A male descendent of Ibn Saud, his son ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz, rules the country today as required by the country's 1992 Basic Law. Source: The World Factbook

Democratic Reforms

Since 1995, Saudi Arabia has made subtle changes in its governance structure. Concerns over balancing the various factions of the royal family led to the creation of new advisory groups and a slight diffusion of power. In 2003 the government announced a reorganization of the Council of Ministers and then plans to create municipal councils and to hold democratic elections. Originally scheduled for October 2004, the first stage of the municipal elections finally took place February 10, 2005. In general, the candidates exhibited far more enthusiasm than the voters. More than 1,800 candidates sought election to 592 seats, but only about 25 percent of eligible male voters (and possibly as few as 15–20 percent) cast votes. While some observers viewed the elections as a mark of progress, critics concluded that the poor turnout reflected a general dissatisfaction with the limited extent of the legislative reforms.  Country Profile: Saudi Arabia, Library of Congress

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