Since Abdulaziz Ibn Saud gathered most of the Arabian
Peninsula in 1932, Saudi Arabia has been a monarchy and a
unified state monarchy. The country's founder got 45
recognized sons, many of whom have characterized the
government. Six of these have succeeded him as king and
leader: Saud, Faisal, Khalid, Fahd, Abdullah and Salman. The
succession is based neither on formal rules nor an
established tradition, and the king in effect appoints
himself his crown prince and heir, as well as the
government. The king also has the title "protector of the
two holy cities," which refers to Islamtwo holiest cities,
Mecca and Medina, located in Saudi Arabia. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of SA and its meanings of Saudi Arabia.
Constitution and the judiciary
Saudi Arabia has no ordinary constitution, but in 1992
was given a set of governing principles which, among other
things, establish some of the citizens' duties and rights,
and that the kings of the country should be direct
descendants of Ibn Saud. The first article proclaims that
the country's constitution is Islam.
The law is thus essentially not codified, and the country
should in principle be governed by Islamic law, Sharia. In
most cases, the conservative Islamic Hanbali law school is
followed. In addition, the king can issue laws in the form
of royal decrees, often dealing with matters not covered by
Islamic law, such as traffic offenses.
The judiciary is dominated by the conservative religious
establishment. The Supreme Judicial Council comprises 11
members and is the supreme court. It oversees the other
courts, makes statements in cases submitted by the Minister
of Justice and otherwise makes statements on legal issues.
Furthermore, there is a court of cassation, headed by the
Supreme Court Justice, a number of general (public) courts
and special courts, including business law. Several civil
laws have been introduced.
Saudi Arabia practices corporal punishment, including
whipping, amputation and execution by decapitation.
The king holds legislative, executive and judicial
powers. In 1993, the country received a national
consultative council (Majlis al-shura), which since
2005 has 150 members. The members are appointed by the king
and sit for four years. In 2013, female members were first
appointed, and around 20 per cent of Council members have
since been women. The Council can initiate legislation and
oversee government policy.
Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 administrative regions,
which are again divided into districts. Governors, most
often members of the royal family, are appointed from a
central position. In 2005, for the first time elections for
about half of municipal councils were held. In 2015, women
had the right to vote in elections for the first time.
Political parties are not allowed and the elected municipal
councils have little influence.