Alwaleed Calls for Elections

Saudi billionaire prince Alwaleed bin Talal has called for parliamentary elections in the absolute monarchy where the king names members of a toothless Shura consultative council.

Prince Alwaleed, the richest Arab businessman and a nephew of King Abdullah, said in a television interview aired late Tuesday the monarch’s January decision to appoint 30 women to the council was “very important” but needed to go further.

“For this to become historic, I think two things are essential: first, elections, even if partial, and, more importantly, (giving) powers,” he said in the interview aired on several channels, most belonging to his media empire.

When the interview was first advertised some people wondered if this was an attempt of PR damage control after the prince’s spat with Forbes magazine over his wealth. The controversy only received a brief mention during the interview, where Alwaleed said this was not about his wealth but rather about defending the Saudi stock market and its integrity. Commenters on Twitter said the interview was meant as an introduction to Alwaleed and to show that he wants to become more involved in the public disource in the country. He has praised King Abdullah, but he kept saying much reform is still needed. It is hard to say if Alwaleed is a serious contneder for succession, but he clearly does not lack ambition.