This is the year of democracy in the Middle East, elections feature in Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Yet ‘election’ is just a buzz word. Afraid of unleashing true participatory politics, dictators rush to western models to ﬁnd the magic phrase, but then legitimise it with Islamic codes. They conjure up potions formulated to suit the ruler without threatening the status quo. For Saudi Arabia the word ‘partial’ provides the recipe.