Saudi activists found first political party

DUBAI, Wissam Keyrouz- Despite a ban on political parties, nine activists in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia have announced the formation of the first party there, aiming to forward political reform, their website says.
The activists have issued a founding statement for the "Islamic Umma Party," and have sent a letter to King Abdullah seeking recognition of it, according to their website,

Saudi activists found first political party
"It is not hidden from you that the Islamic world has seen great political developments and the strengthening of freedoms and human rights which Islam already approves ... It is now time for the kingdom to keep pace with this development and contribute to it," a copy of the letter on their website reads.
The party's founding statement -- issued against the backdrop of pro-democracy unrest in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world -- says its aim is to forward the movement for peaceful political reform.
"We have established the Islamic Umma Party to contribute to forwarding the peaceful political reform movement, to which all the people look forward," says the statement, which is signed by the nine men, whom it said were lawyers, businessmen, professors and political activists.
The founders believe in "freedom," "political pluralism, and the peaceful transfer of power, and the right of the (Islamic) nation to choose its governments," it says.
The statement also refers to the activists' faith "in the unity of the (Islamic) nation, and the need to unify and strengthen the integration between its peoples and states, especially in the Gulf and the Arabian peninsula, and in the Arab and Islamic world generally."
According to various Saudi websites, one of the founders, Sheikh Mohammed al-Qahtani, said that the letter requesting the party's recognition was sent to the royal court on Wednesday.
Qahtani said that the founding of the party "was a natural response to the development of the political situation in the region and the development of political action in the kingdom," websites said.
"The time has come to approve political rights and launch general freedoms, especially to approve the right of the people to elect the Shura Council and the creation of legislation to govern all these political rights," Qahtani said.
An absolute monarchy, Saudi Arabia has held just one set of elections in its history and those polls in 2005 were to pick just half of the members of 178 municipal councils with the rest being appointed by the authorities.
The kingdom does not have a parliament, but does have a consultative Shura Council, an all-appointed body designed to consult with the king on policies, laws, and other matters.

Friday, February 11th 2011
Wissam Keyrouz

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