The politics of Saudi Arabia function in the framework of an absolute monarchy founded on the principles of Islam.
While the King of Saudi Arabia serves as both head of state and head of government, much of the decision marking is based on consultation
among the senior princes of the royal family and the religious establishment.
The Quran is the Constitution of Saudi Arabia, which is ruled on the foundation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
The vast royal family, the Al Saud, which has often been divided by inner differences and into groups, dominates government.
The family members are the primary political actors.
Despite limited political involvement outside of the royal family, there has been pressure for some time to expand that involvement.
Islamist activity has increased in recent years, leading to Islamist terrorism.
According to some witnesses, “traditionally”, issues like foreign policy, national defense, and international affairs have been “the purview of the
state” in Saudi Arabia, whereas “justice, education, and family matters”, as they relate to religion, were dealt with by “the religious
Nevertheless, in recent years, “the Saudi state has been working to reclaim control of these areas."
MAJOR LEADERS OF SAUDI ARABIA
Government Unitary Islamic absolute monarchy
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz
Deputy Crown Prince Muqruin bin Abdulaziz
Major leaders of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy.
However, in accordance with the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia assumed by royal decree in 1992, the King must obey Sharia (Islamic law) and the
The Quran and the Sunnah are Saudi Arabia’s Constitution.
There is no lawfully written constitution, and the Quran and the Sunnah are subject to interpretation; this task is the responsibility of the Ulama, the
Saudi religious establishment.
The monarch, currently King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who assumed the throne in 2005, is the head of the Saudi government.
Political parties and national elections are forbidden.
The Saudi government, according to The Economist’s 2010 Democracy Index, was the seventh most authoritarian régime of 167 countries rated.
The royal family exercises control over government.
The government of Saudi Arabia and the royal family have often, and for quite some time, been accused of corruption.
The lines between state assets and the individual wealth of senior princes are indistinct in a nation that claims to “belong” to the royal family and
is named after it.
The corruption has been designated as organized and widespread; its presence was confirmed and justified by Prince Bandar bin Sultan (one of
the royal family’s senior members) in a 2001 interview.
Even though accusations of corruption are frequently limited to general undocumented allegations, specific accusations were made in 2007,
when it was alleged that the British defense contractor BAE Systems paid Prince Bandar US$2 million in bribes that related to the Al-Yamamah
arms deal, but Prince Bandar dismissed them.
In 2010, there were investigations by both U.S. and UK authorities that led to plea bargain agreements with the corporation, by which it paid $447
million in fines, despite not admitting to bribery.
In the annual Corruption Perceptions Index for 2012, Transparency International gave Saudi Arabia a 4.4 (on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is “highly
corrupt” and 10 is “very clean”).
There has been increasing pressure to change and improve the royal family’s reign since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; both before
and after he ascended to the throne in 2005, this agenda was backed by King Abdullah.
The Consultative Council’s establishment in the early 1990’s did not fulfill pleas for political participation; in 2003, a yearly National Dialogue Forum
was announced and would permit chosen professionals and academics to openly debate current national issues within specific prearranged
The first municipal elections were held in 2005.
The Allegiance Council was established in 2007 to regulate the succession.
In 2009, the King personally made major personnel amendments to the governing through nomination of reformers to important posts and the first
woman to a governmental position.
The changes have nonetheless been condemned as being too slow or merely cosmetic; the royal family is allegedly divided with respect to the
speed and direction of change.
Abdullah announced in 2011 that women will be allowed appointment to the Shura Council.
ABDULLAH BIN ABDULAZIZ
Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
Born 1 August 1924 in Riyadh, Sultanate of Nejd.
King of Saudi Arabia; assumed the throne on 1 August 2005, his 81st
birthday, following the death of his half-brother, King Fahd.
According to Forbes, he is one of the world’s most powerful people
(ranked eighth worldwide, making him the most powerful Muslim).
One of the many sons of Ibn Saud, the founder of present day Saudi
Has held significant political positions during the majority of his adult life.
Became mayor of Mecca, his first public office, in 1961.
Was nominated commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, a
position he still occupied when he became King, in 1962.
Additionally served as deputy defense minister and became crown
prince when Fahd assumed the throne in 1982.
Became the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia after King Fahd suffered a
stroke in 1995, until he ascended to the throne ten years later.
SALMAN BIN ABDULAZIZ
Salman bin Abdulaziz
Born 31 December 1935.
Crown Prince, First Deputy Minister, and Minister of Defense of Saudi Arabia.
Member of the House of Saud.
Reported to be the 25th son of King Abdulaziz; is thus a member of the Sudairi
Was raised in Murabba Palace.
Received his early education in the Princes’ School in Riyadh, established by
King Abdulaziz to give education to his children.
Studied religion and modern science.
His involvement in government goes as far back as the 1950s.
King Abdulaziz appointed Salman as his representative and the emir or mayor of
Riyadh on 17 March 1954, when Salman was barely nineteen.
Was later nominated by King Saud as mayor of Riyadh at the rank of minister on
19 April 1955; resigned from that position on 25 December 1960.
MUQRUIN BIN ABDULAZI
Muqruin bin Abdulazi
Born 15 September 1945 in Riyadh.
Member of the House of Saud who previously served as director general of Al Mukhabarat
Al A’amah (Saudi intelligence) from 2005-2012.
Was appointed King Abdullah’s advisor and special representative with the rank of
Was named as second deputy PM on 1 February 2013; this made him the fifth Saudi royal
to occupy this post that previously was occupied by the late King Fahd, the current King
Abdullah, the late Crown Prince Sultan, and the late Crown Prince Nayef.
Became deputy crown prince on 27 March 2014, which put him second in the line of
succession after his brother Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
35th and youngest of King Abdulaziz’s surviving sons.
His mother, Baraka Al Yamaniyah (she was King Abdulaziz’s eighteenth wife) was from
Studied at the Riyadh Model Institute.
Later went to RAF College in Cranwell, graduating with a degree in aeronautics at the
rank of flight lieutenant in 1968; also earned a diploma, equilavelent to a master’s degree,
from the General Staff course in the U.S. in 1974.