What Type Of Government Does Brunei Have?

The official residence of the sultan of Brunei.
The official residence of the sultan of Brunei.

Brunei is a country on the north coast of the Island of Borneo. The country is entirely surrounded by the state of Sarawak, Malaysia. The government of Brunei is set on the framework of absolute monarchy and the Sultan is the head of state and head of government (prime minister). The Sultan wields executive and legislative authority.

Melayu Islam Beraja

The Melayu Islam Beraja is the national philosophy of Brunei and can be described as the country’s equivalent of a constitution. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah was officially proclaimed the supreme leader on January 1st, 1984 when the country gained independence from British colonial rule. The Melayu Islam Beraja indicates Islam as Brunei’s official and state religion. The Melayu Islam Beraja also outlines the authority and powers of the Sultan.

The Executive

As head of government, the Sultan is the leader of the executive and the head of government. He is also responsible for the appointment of all members of the cabinet. The Cabinet of Brunei is comprised of the prime minister (the Sultan), the senior minister, attorney general, Mufti, and cabinet ministers who lead their respective ministries. Apart from being the prime minister and head of Cabinet, the Sultan is also Minister of Defense, Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. There are five councils appointed by the Sultan which play an advisory role to the monarch and include the Council of Succession, The Religious Council, the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet), The Privy Council, and the Legislative Council.

The Council of Succession

The Council of Succession was established by the Sultan and has the primary role in determining the succession of the monarchy when such need arises. All judgments and decisions made by the Council of Succession are based on provisions of the Melayu Islam Beraja.

Brunei Religious Council

The Religious Council is a body established by the Sultan whose primary role is to advise the Sultan on all Islam-based issues. The Religious Council is comprised of several ministers, the attorney general, the Chief Justice, and the Mufti among others. The Religious Council comes up with policies on Islamic religious practices which are then implemented by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

The Privy Council

The Privy Council is comprised of members of the royal family as well as senior officials in government, who are all appointed by the Sultan. The Privy Council is mandated to advise the Sultan on revoking and amending provisions of the Melayu Islam Beraja as well as decisions of conferring of customary ranks and titles.

The Legislature

The Legislative Council of Brunei is comprised of 33 members who are all appointed by the Sultan. The Legislative Council of Brunei is an unicameral parliament. The speaker is the leader of the legislature, and his primary role is to moderate parliamentary proceedings. The Legislative Council conducts its sessions in March each year to review various government policies as well as the passing of motions. In 2004 the Sultan made a pronouncement that the 15 members of the Legislative Council would be elected members.

The Judiciary

Brunei exercises a dual legal system where one legal system practices the English Common Law and the other legal system practices the Islamic Sharia Law. However, the majority of the English Common Law is codified and covers most of Brunei’s laws.


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