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Politics of Brunei


Under Brunei's 1959 constitution, His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, is the head of state with full executive authority, including emergency powers since 1962. The Sultan's role is enshrined in the national philosophy known as Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB), or Malay Islamic Monarchy.


The Sultan is assisted and advised by five councils, which he appoints. A Council of Ministers, or cabinet, which currently consists of nine members (including the Sultan himself), assists in the administration of the government. The Sultan presides over the cabinet as Prime Minister and also holds the positions of Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance. One of the Sultan's brothers, Prince Mohamed, serves as Minister of Foreign Affairs. There are also three Councils appointed by the Sultan: a Religious Council, which advises on religious matters; a Privy Council, dealing with constitutional matters; and the Council of Succession that determines the succession to the throne should the need arise.


Brunei's legal system is based on English common law, with an independent judiciary, a body of written common law judgments and statutes, and legislation enacted by the sultan. Most cases are tried by the local magistrate's courts. More serious cases go before the High Court, which sits for about 2 weeks every few months. Brunei has an arrangement with the United Kingdom whereby United Kingdom judges are appointed as the judges for Brunei's High Court and Court of Appeal. Final appeal can be made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London in civil but not criminal cases.


Under the 1959 constitution there was an elected Legislative Council, or Majlis Masyuarat Negeri, but the last elections were held in 1962, after which it was dissolved following a state of emergency, which saw the banning of the Parti Rakyat Brunei (PRB) or Brunei People's Party. In 1970 the Council was changed to an appointed body by decree of the Sultan; an elected Legislative Council is being considered as part of constitutional reform, but elections are unlikely for several years.