By Sabrina M. Peterson
October 17, 2011
On September 25, 2011, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia granted women the right to vote and run in future municipal elections, effective in 2015. His newfound generosity did not stop there: starting in 2012, Saudi women will be eligible for appointment to the national Shura council. Four days later, Saudi Arabia held the second-ever municipal elections, which had been postponed since 2009. Some optimists in the West heralded these reforms as inspired by the Arab Spring in the genuine interest of furthering democracy. While these reforms were indeed born out of the Arab Spring, they do not signify a meaningful shift toward a more open political system. Instead, they represent the desperate effort of the royal family to do something—anything—to safeguard the Saudi monarchy in a post-Arab Spring Middle East.