Saudi Arabia flag Saudi Arabia: Economic and Political Overview

The political framework of Saudi Arabia

Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
King: Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (since January 2015) - hereditary; the monarch is both chief of state and head of government
Crown Prince and Prime Minister: Muhammad bin Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 27 September 2022)
Next Election Dates
None; the monarchy is hereditary
Current Political Context
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud as prime minister in September 2022, a post historically held by the ruling monarch. The move, which comes as part of a wider cabinet reshuffle, confirms the growing power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud amid the transfer of further responsibilities from the King to his son. The transition of power is now well underway as is Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud programme to modernise and diversify the economy. His position as prime minister formally makes him head of government, but he is already serving as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia as he oversees crucial economic and defence portfolios. He will likely consolidate his power even further before succeeding his father as King.
In early 2023, Iran and Saudi Arabia, despite their historical regional rivalry, initiated a reconciliation brokered by China. While this move signals a positive step toward regional stability, both nations will maintain distinct geopolitical and religious agendas, suggesting that full reconciliation may occur gradually. Additionally, Saudi Arabia's ties with China, a significant purchaser of its oil and provider of essential capital goods, are anticipated to strengthen. While these dynamics may pose challenges to relations with Israel and the U.S., the latter remains a steadfast ally to Saudi Arabia, particularly in security matters, while progress in relations with Israel was hindered by the outbreak of the conflict with Hamas.
Main Political Parties
There are no political parties. However, certain political movements may exist (Islamists, Communists, Liberals, Greens, etc.), in the form of illegal organizations. The first municipal elections in Saudi Arabia took place in 2005.
Executive Power
The King is both the Chief of State and the head of the Government. The monarchy is hereditary. The Council of Ministers (cabinet) is appointed by the Monarch and includes many royal family members. The Council of Ministers has both legislative and executive powers, subject to the King's approval.
Legislative Power
There is no elected legislature in Saudi Arabia at the national level (although there are municipal elections). A Consultative Council was appointed in August 1993 which has 150 members and a chairman appointed by the King for four-year terms. This Council has limited powers and does not affect decision making or power structures in a concrete way.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
170/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
7/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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Latest Update: February 2024