No Significant Elections Scheduled in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia doesn’t have any elections planned in 2024. Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties. No officials at the national level are elected. Nonpartisan elections for advisory councils at the municipal level happened in 2015. Two-thirds of the members on the 284 councils were elected, while the rest of the seats were filled through appointment by the minister of municipal and rural affairs. However, advisory council elections due in 2019 were postponed indefinitely without explanation. The length of the term of office of these municipal councils was extended for two years until 2021, and no information was provided after that date on the following general municipal elections. Moreover, the chairmen and members of these municipal councils faced criticism from the public over the opacity of their work and activities. They demanded more supervision of the projects the councils are implementing.

Political parties are prohibited, and political dissent is effectively criminalized in Saudi Arabia. The majority of Saudi climate-change policies and programs are determined at the central government level, led by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler. These policies, articulated in Saudi Vision 2030, aim to reduce emissions and produce 50% of power from renewable resources. Crown Prince Bin Salman has been consolidating his power and decision-making processes. In September 2022, a royal decree promoted him from deputy prime minister and defense minister to prime minister, a position traditionally reserved for the king.

Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s position on international collaboration, including his stance on the Paris Agreement and subsequent climate agreements, reflects a delicate balance between Saudi Arabia’s traditional role as a leading global oil producer and its growing interest in sustainable development and renewable energy. The Saudi government has expressed support for international efforts to combat climate change, as demonstrated by its participation in the Paris Agreement and its Vision 2030 plan. Vision 2030 includes significant commitments to renewable energy and economic diversification away from oil dependency. However, the kingdom’s economy is deeply tied to the production and export of fossil fuels, leading to a cautious approach in transitioning to renewable energy. At international forums, Saudi Arabia has advocated for a balanced and gradual transition to renewable energy, emphasizing the importance of stability in global energy markets. This stance reflects a pragmatic approach to reconcile its economic interests with global environmental commitments, demonstrating support for climate agreements while also safeguarding its national interests tied to fossil fuels.

In Saudi Arabia, a monarchy, the concept of political donors and bases, as understood in democratic contexts, doesn’t directly apply. The primary support for the ruler comes from the royal family, key figures in the government, and influential business elites. They are tied to the oil industry but increasingly support the kingdom’s pivot towards renewable energy and climate change policies under Vision 2030. This strategic shift reflects a broader acceptance of sustainability goals within the kingdom’s leadership. Due to the centralized nature of governance and the absence of public elections, it is challenging to delineate public views on climate change policy.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Saudi Arabia Country Managers Abeer Abdulkareem and Amgad Ellaboudy.


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