Saudi kings gradually have developed a central government. Since 1953, the Council of Ministers, appointed by and responsible to the king, has advised on the formulation of general policy and directed the activities of the growing bureaucracy. This council consists of a prime minister, the first and second deputy prime ministers, 20 ministers (of whom the minister of defense also is the second deputy prime minister), two ministers of state, and a small number of advisers and heads of major autonomous organizations.
Legislation is by resolution of the Council of Ministers, ratified by royal decree, and must be compatible with the Shari'a. Justice is administered according to the Shari'a by a system of religious courts whose judges are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, composed of 12 senior jurists. The independence of the judiciary is protected by law. The king acts as the highest court of appeal and has the power to pardon. The country is in state of war with Israel since 1948. Access to high officials (usually at a majlis, or public audience) and the right to petition them directly are well-established traditions.
The kingdom is divided into 13 provinces governed by princes or close relatives of the royal family. All governors are appointed by the King.
In March 1992, King Fahd issued several decrees outlining the basic statutes of government and codifying for the first time procedures concerning the royal succession. The King's political reform program also provided for the establishment of a national Consultative Council, with appointed members having advisory powers to review and give advice on issues of public interest. It also outlined a framework for councils at the provincial or emirate level.
In September 1993, King Fahd issued additional reform decrees, appointing the members of the national Consultative Council and spelling out procedures for the new council's operations. He announced reforms regarding the Council of Ministers, including term limitations of 4 years and regulations to prohibit conflict of interest for ministers and other high-level officials. The members of 13 provincial councils and the councils' operating regulations also were announced in September 1993.
In July 1997, the membership of the Consultative Council was expanded from 60 to 90 members, and again in May 2001 from 90 to 120 members. Membership has changed significantly during expansions of the council as many members have not been reappointed. The role of the council is gradually expanding as it gains experience.
conventional long form: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
conventional short form: Saudi Arabia
local long form: Al Mamlakah al Arabiyah as Suudiyah (Arabic: المملكة العربيّة السّعوديّة)
local short form: Al Arabiyah as Suudiyah (Arabic: العربيّة السّعوديّة)
Data code: SA
Government type: monarchy
Capital: Riyadh (Arabic: الرّياض, Romanization: Ar-Riyyāḍ)
Administrative divisions: 13 provinces (mintaqat, singular - mintaqah); Al Bahah, Al Hudud ash Shamaliyah, Al Jawf, Al Madinah, Al Qasim, Ar Riyad, Ash Sharqiyah (Eastern Province), 'Asir, Ha'il, Jizan, Makkah, Najran, Tabuk
National holiday: Unification of the Kingdom, 23 September (1932)
Constitution: governed according to Shari'a (Islamic law); the Basic Law that articulates the government's rights and responsibilities was introduced in 1993
Legal system: based on Islamic law, several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
chief of state: King and Prime Minister FAHD bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 13 June 1982); Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (half-brother to the monarch, heir to the throne since June 13 1982, regent from January 1 to February 22 1996); note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: King and Prime Minister FAHD bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since June 13, 1982); Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (half-brother to the monarch, heir to the throne since 13 June 1982, regent from January 1 to February 22 1996); note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Council of Ministers is appointed by the monarch and includes many royal family members.
See also Turki bin Faisal
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary
Legislative branch: a consultative council (90 members and a chairman appointed by the monarch for four-year terms)
Judicial branch: Supreme Council of Justice
Political parties and leaders: none allowed
International organization participation: ABEDA, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, BIS, CCC, ESCWA, FAO, G-19, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAPEC, OAS (observer), OIC, OPCW, OPEC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO (applicant)
Flag description: green with large white Arabic script (that may be translated as There is no God but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God) above a white horizontal saber (the tip points to the hoist side); green is the traditional color of Islam