Such demonstrations are illegal in the kingdom, and Saudi culture is strongly against public displays of civil disobedience.
In addition, there is no evidence that the petitions or the protest calls have widespread national support. Rather, they appear to be most representative of a growing slice of Saudi society that is politically restive but not yet organized for mass action.
There is also the economic factor:
The demands for political reforms also follow a huge package of economic benefits, estimated between $30 to $36 billion, that was unveiled Feb. 23 to mark the king's return that day from his three-month absence abroad for medical treatment.
The package includes unemployment insurance for the first time, increases in welfare payments for poor households, funds to alleviate a severe shortage of affordable housing, millions for charities, sports and cultural clubs, as well as the release of thousands of prisoners who had failed to pay debts.
While government officials said the economic package has been in the works for some time, many Saudis and other observers interpreted it as an effort to defuse discontent and forestall mass political protests like those elsewhere.
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