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Overview on the Governance System in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Guiding Principle

The demise of King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz and the smooth fast transfer of power to his half-brother King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, raised a lot of interest about the governance system in Saudi Arabia. In this article, we are providing an overview on the legal background of ruling in the most influential state amongst the Arabian Gulf monarchies “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.

A. The Demise of the Saudi King and the Coronation of the New King, the Crown Prince and his Deputy

On Friday January 23, 2015, the Saudi Royal Divan has announced in the name of, the Crown Prince then, Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, the demise of King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud at 1:00 in the morning of the same day.

It was further announced at the same time that Prince Salman has accepted the pledge of allegiance from the Saudi Pledge of Allegiance Commission as the new King and Prime Minister for the country.

King Salman has appointed Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, his half-brother, as the new Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister and called for pledge of allegiance for him in light of the Royal Order of King Abdullah. The late King has issued an order on March 27, 2014, stipulating that in the event of the vacancy of the Crown Prince position, Prince Muqrin shall be pledged for it. King Salman has appointed Prince Muqrin as the Deputy Prime Minister as well.

Following the protocol as first initiated by King Abdullah on 2014, a Deputy Crown Prince, namely Prince Mohamed bin Nayef, was appointed by King Salman. The Deputy Crown Prince is also appointed as the Second Deputy Prime Minister in addition for his current position as the Minister of Interior.

Being the third in row for the throne, Prince Mohamed, a grandson of King Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, might be the first king from the second generation in the Saudi royal family.

B. Principles of Governance in Saudi Arabia

On first of March 1992, King Fahad bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud has issued the Basic Law of Governance (“SA-BLG”). The law confirmed the identity of Saudi Arabia as an Arab Islamic absolute monarchy governed by the Islamic law (Shari’ah). Governance in the Kingdom is based on justice, consultation and equality in accordance with the Shari’ah. No political parties are allowed to exist. The Quran and the Sunnah forms its constitution.

The King holds the legislative and executive functions. He issues Royal Decrees, which form the basis of the country’s legislation. The King is also the Prime Minister, and chairs the Council of Ministers.

The citizens shall pledge allegiance to the King on the basis of submission and obedience in times of hardship and ease, fortune and adversity.

C. Choosing the King and the Crown Prince

The governance is limited to the male descent of the founder King Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud. Allegiance shall be pledged to the most suitable amongst them in accordance to the Law of Pledge of Allegiance Commission. The Commission shall be constituted pursuant to a Royal Order from the following members:

  1. The sons of the founder King Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud.
  2. A son of every deceased, decliner or incapacitated, pursuant to the medical report, to be appointed by the King from among the male descent of King Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, provided that he is known for his righteousness and competency.
  3. Two to be appointed by the King, one from among his sons and the other from the sons of the Crown Prince, provided that they are known for their righteousness and competency.

Upon the King’s death, the Commission shall call for the pledge of allegiance to the Crown Prince as the King of the country in accordance with SA-LPAC and the SA-BLG. Thereafter, the King shall agree with the Commission on choosing the Crown Prince.

If the King is not able to exercise his powers for medical reasons, the Commission shall call for the pledge of allegiance to the Crown Prince. If the Crown Prince is suffering from similar case, the Commission shall have the right to choose another King and Crown Prince from the other male descent of King Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud.

January, 2015 Hany Kenawi
Meyer-Reumann & Partners, Saudi Office
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