Women MPs and elections not needed in Saudi -prince

RIYADH, (Reuters) – Islamic Saudi Arabia, the  world’s biggest oil exporter, has no need for women members of  parliament or elections, a senior prince said in remarks  published yesterday.

There are no political parties in Saudi Arabia but reform  activists hope the advisory Shura Council — an all-male body  appointed by the king — will be transformed into an elected  legislature one day.

“Appointing the members always ensures that the best are  selected,” Interior Minister Prince Nayef said in comments  carried by al-Jazirah daily. “If it was to happen through  elections, the members would not have had been this competent.”
Asked if that could include women, he said: “I don’t see the  need for that.”

Diplomats say the inner circle of powerful Saudi royals are  divided over political reforms. Prince Nayef, half-brother to  King Abdullah, is seen as a hawk opposed to changes.

Saudi men were allowed to vote for some seats on municipal  councils in 2005.
The king has promoted cautious reforms as part of an effort  to combat radicalism that was launched after the Sept. 11  attacks of 2001.
The attacks, in which 15 of the 19 perpetrators were from Saudi Arabia, focused international attention on the influence  of the hardline Wahhabi Islam that dominates in Saudi Arabia.

Last month, the king broke with tradition to appoint a woman  as deputy education minister.

The royal family rules in alliance with powerful clerics who  oversee the application of Islamic sharia law. They say women  should cover their faces in public and try to prevent them  mixing with unrelated men. Women are barred from driving.

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