ANALYSIS-Saudi king needs to step up reforms to curb dissent

Mon Feb 14, 2011 5:48pm GMT
 

* Reforms must be enacted to curb dissent -analysts

* King's absence has delayed government plans

* Succession could also affect course of reforms

By Ulf Laessing

RIYADH, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Saudi King Abdullah has enough oil money to avoid the kind of social upheaval seen among the poor in Egypt and Tunisia, but the ageing monarch must reform if he is to keep a lid on dissent, analysts and diplomats say.

Although the top oil exporter has more than $400 billion in petrodollars stashed away to address social grievances, Saudi Arabia must address issues such jobs and housing, and the desire of an internet-savvy generation to have its voices heard.

While his countrymen were glued to their television screens watching the fall of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Abdullah has spent the last three months convalescing abroad, leaving reform plans stalled.

In a tightly controlled country with 19 million people and no tradition of political opposition, Saudis have slowly begun griping on Twitter about corruption. Last week Islamists launched an opposition political party, a taboo in the kingdom.   Continued...

 
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