In the post-9/11 period, the Saudi state faced mounting pressure to appropriate the rhetoric of reform and introduce a series of reformist measures and promises, although none posed a serious challenge to the rule of the Āl Saʿūd. This involved the opening of the public sphere to quasi-independent civil society associations, limited municipal elections, and a relatively free press. Reform of the royal house, aimed at dealing with possible future problematic succession to the throne, was also part of a general trend. This article deals with state-initiated reforms the objective of which was to modernize authoritarian rule without risking the loss of too much power to the constituency.

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