Lacking popular legitimacy conferred by the consent of the governed, the Saudi Royal Family relies on religious legitimacy from the clerics. Yet it must also control these clerics in order to keep religion in check and ensure that the clergy continues to provide this essential legitimacy.
Recently, the Saudi Royals have moved to control the issuance of fatwas (religious edicts), restricting them to those appointed by the family as members of the Council of Senior Ulama. But the proliferation of media makes such control difficult, and it remains to be seen whether or not the regime can really stem the tide of independent, and very often problematic, fatwas.
(photo credit: MIT OpenCourseWare)