THE BRITISH AND THE SAUDI MONARCHY
16th, January 2013
Human beings are political by nature. Therefore, in order to tame this nature, and to maintain balance and order, it is important that rules and regulations be set up as a way of coercing people to achieve this order. Most countries have different laws that govern them to ensure stability. These are in form of a constitution, which is the representation of the virtues a country upholds. Different countries have different constitutions, meaning that some virtues that are valuable to one country may not mean much to another. Nonetheless, a constitution brings order in a country as it contains laws that all citizens must adhere to, as the violation of the constitution leads to sanctions. Basing on the nature and function of a constitution, this essay will compare the role of constitution in the governance of monarchies, with reference to the monarchy of England and the Saudi Arabia monarchy.
There are different classifications of types of constitutions. One important classification is the codified and the uncodified constitution. These however, do not differ in great essence, as a codified constitution is one that exists in a codified or written form, and is a document, while the uncodified constitution is one that is not documented. Today, the codified type of constitution is the most popular among countries, while the uncodified is rare. An example of a codified constitution is the United States constitution, while the British constitution is an example of the uncodified constitution (Wood, 1982).
There are different theories that attempt to trace the exact origin of the constitution. While some claim it originated from the ancient Greece, others have argued that the idea of the constitution was first experienced in Runnymede, as others relate the origin of the constitution with the English people. However, the idea of the constitution began in 1760’s during the imperial crisis. America had a significant influence in the shaping of concept of the modern constitution. During the period between the years 1763 and 1803, America experienced great constitutionalism. Americans developed a modern conception of the constitution as a written document, and defined the limits of the powers of government, developed strategies for constitution amendment and ratification, as well as the process of judicial review. Therefore, these forty years were crucial to America, and other countries, which were influenced by America’s shaping and defining of the constitution to fit into a modern context (Wood, 1982).
The codified constitutions have a provision for their own amendment. Constitutional amendment is vital, as it is a reflection of the various changes that have happened in a country. This makes the constitution to be dynamic and flexible. However, considering the nature of the constitution as being the supreme law, its amendment will differ with the amendment process of other laws. The amendment of a constitution involved special procedure, which is provided in the constitution itself. Constitutional courts, as well as the process of judicial review, are important in a country, with regard to its constitutional matters. The practice of judicial review involves the measurement of ordinary legislation against the fundamental law of the constitution by judges. In the United States, the Supreme Court conducts judicial review by hearing and addressing cases challenging the constitutionality of law (Wood, 1982).
Constitutions can be classified further as monarchal or republican. A republican constitution provides for the position of a president, but with varying powers in different countries. Monarchal constitutions are unique, and adopted by United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, where they play different functions. As seen earlier, the British constitution is monarchal and uncodified. This means that it lacks an official documentation, like other countries. The queen is the head of state and reigns according to the country’s constitution, and not her free will, meaning her power is limited. The queen is required to remain politically neutral, even if the government changes. The sovereign plays the role of advising the ministers, appointing the prime ministers, bestowing state honors, as well as approving new legislation. As the head of the armed forces, the sovereign is expected to conduct official and ceremonial duties separately from the party politics, as provided by the constitutional monarchy (“The British Monarchy,” 2008).
The government in Saudi Arabian is considered a monarchy as the king heads the state, and the constitution of this country bases fully on Islamic laws found in the Qur’an. Since almost all the Saudi population is Muslim, no secular law has been adopted for the country’s governance. The country lacks a clear political party system, and the king and Islamic leaders are the major decision-makers in the country, with the last say on important aspects of the country. The year 1953 saw the formation of a central government in Saudi Arabia. This included a council of ministers and a prime minister. The council of ministers is responsible for introducing new rules and regulations, but these require the approval of the king. The king also appoints a consultative assembly, which has limited power in the legislative department of the country. In addition, although the Supreme Judicial Council is responsible for the selection of judges to the Sharia courts, the king approves of their selection. The king plays the role of the court of appeal, despite the fact that Sharia courts and the judicial council can perform this. In this monarch therefore, all the powers are bestowed on the king, making it resemble an authoritarian state (Khan, 2012).
The Saudi government and the British government are both monarchies, with a monarchal constitution. Therefore, there lie considerable differences and similarities in the way these monarchies function, in terms of their roles, power, and rights. Even though these two governments are constitutional monarchies, Saudi Arabia can be described well as an absolute monarchy, while Britain is the ideal definition of a constitutional monarchy. Whereas the monarch in Saudi holds absolute power, the monarch of England is a hereditary monarch. The king in Saudi Arabia rules with absolute power, like a dictator, while the queen in England reigns with limited power, as she acts in accordance with the constitution. In addition, the king in Saudi is responsible for all state decisions, while in England, the queen makes decisions together with the parliament. The prime ministers of the two monarchies have unequal power. In Saudi Arabia, the prime minister does not exercise effective political power, as the case in monarchy of England (“Le Point.fr,”2012: Khan, 2012).
In conclusion, the constitution is a paramount aspect of any country, as it brings about governance. Based on the constitution a country employs, a state can qualify to be a monarchy or a presidential state. The monarchy of England is the most common and oldest constitutional monarchy, as most countries are presidential states. However, the Saudi Arabia is another monarchy, though with different political and legal aspects from those of the monarchy of England. While the monarchy of England is considered strong and established, the Saudi monarchy cannot be compared with this, based on its political malpractices. Authoritarian states are less likely to succeed, and many Saudi Arabians today know that their government is on the verge of deterioration. Factors point out that their present king seems to be coming to the end, and so there is a high probability of near-future power struggles among the royal family and the other Sauds on who becomes the next king.
“The British Monarchy.” (2008). Retrieved 16 January 2013 http://www.royal.gov.uk/
“Le Point.fr.” (2012). What is the Queen of England? Retrieved 16 January 2013
Khan, A. (2012). The Future of the Saudi Monarchy. Retrieved 16 January 2013
Wood, G. (1982). The Origins of the Constitution. Retrieved 16 January 2013
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