The politics of Brunei take place in a framework of an absolute monarchy, where by the Sultan of Brunei is both head of state and head of government (Prime Minister of Brunei). Executive power is exercised by the government. Brunei has a Legislative Council with 36 appointed members, that only has consultative tasks. 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 country has been under hypothetical martial law since a rebellion occurred in the early 1960s and was put down by British troops from Singapore.
The Sultan is the head of state and head of government in Brunei. He exercises absolute powers and full executive authority under the framework of the 1959 Constitution. The Sultan is advised by and presides over five councils, which he appoints. The five councils are the Privy Council, Council of Succession, Religious Council, Council of Ministers and the Legislative Council.
According to the Constitution, the Privy Council advises the Sultan in matters concerning the exercise of authority of mercy and the amendment or revocation of provisions in the Constitution. The council also advises the Sultan on the conferring of Malay customary ranks, titles and honours. It also performs functions such as proclaiming a succession of regency. Members of the Privy Council include members of the royal family and senior government officials.
The Council of Succession determines succession to the throne should that need arise. The order of succession is determined by the Constitution.
The Religious Council, known in full as the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (BIRC) advises the Sultan on all matters pertaining to Islam. The body in charge of Islamic administration policy. Policies determined by the council are executed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Members of the Religious Council include government ministers, a pengiran cheteria, pehin manteris, state mufti, the Attorney General, the Syarie Chief Justice and additional members appointed by the Sultan.
A Council of Ministers, or cabinet, which currently consists of nine members (including the Sultan himself as Prime Minister), perform the day-to-day administrative functions of government.
Under the 1959 constitution there was an elected Legislative Council (Malay: Majlis Mesyuarat Negera), but only one election has ever been held, in 1962. Soon after that election, the assembly was dissolved following the declaration of a state of emergency, which saw the banning of the Brunei People's Party. In 1970 the Council was changed to an appointed body by decree of the Sultan. In 2004 the Sultan announced that for the next parliament, 15 of the 20 seats would be elected. However, no date for the election has been set.
The Legislative Council currently consists of 20 appointed members, and has only consultative powers. Although there are no elections, the following legal parties exist:
Former parties include:
|Members appointed by the Sultan||32|
Brunei has a dual legal system. The first is the system inherited from the British, similar to the ones found in India, Malaysia and Singapore. It is based on the English common law, but with codification of a significant part of it. The common law legal system covers most of the laws in Brunei.
The structure of the common law courts in Brunei starts with the magistracy. There are currently less than 10 magistrates for the country, all of whom are locals. A rung above the magistracy is the intermediate courts. This was set up to be a training ground for the local. There are currently two intermediate court judges, both are locals.
There is no jury system in Brunei; a judge or magistrate sits alone to hear a case except for capital punishment cases where two High Court judges will sit.
The Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court consists of three Judges, all of whom are currently retired British judges. The Court of Appeal sits twice a year for about a month each time.
Appeals to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in criminal cases are no longer available, whilst still retaining a very limited right of appeal to the Privy Council in civil cases.
The other system of Justice in Brunei is the shariah courts. It deals mainly in Muslim divorce and matters ancillary to a Muslim divorce in its civil jurisdiction and in the offences of khalwat (close proximity) and zina (illicit sex) amongst Muslims.
The shariah court structure is similar to the common law court structure except that it has no intermediate court and that the Court of Appeal is the final court of appeal.
All magistrates and judges in both the common law courts and the shariah courts are appointed by the Government. All local magistrates and judges were appointed from the civil service with none thus far being appointed from the private practice.
Brunei claimed the Limbang territory in Sarawak, Malaysia. But in 2009, a solution was achieved between the two governments when Brunei dropped all claims to Limbang, thus recognising it as a Malaysian territory. The nation also is one of many nations to lay claim to the disputed Spratly Islands. Several small islands situated between Brunei and Labuan, Malaysia, including Kuraman island, are contested between Brunei and Malaysia. However, they are internationally recognised as part of the latter.