Saudi King reshuffles Shura and religious elders councils

 150 member Shura Council has been appointed for four years

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud has issued a royal decree, restructuring the kingdom’s Council of Senior Religious Scholars headed by Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh and the Shura Council.

Sheikh Abdallah Al-Sheikh has been appointed as the head of the Kingdom’s newly restructured Shura Council. The new Shura Council will be made up of 150 members and will serve a four year term.

Dr. Mishaal bin Fahm al-Salami was named as the Vice Speaker of the Shura Council, while Dr. Hanan bint Abdulrahim bin Mutlaq al-Ahmadi was named Assistant Speaker of the Shura Council.

This reshuffling in religious elders’ council and Shura Council is seen as part of ongoing reforms project to modernise the conservative Kingdom. The Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is tightening his grip on the power structure in the Kingdom.  

Under the new royal decrees issued on Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman also appointed a new head of the Kingdom’s Supreme Court, naming Khalid bin Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Luhaidan to the position.

The restructured Council of Senior Religious Scholars will be headed by Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh. The council itself will be made up of 21 members, including Al-Sheikh.

The Shura Council is the formal advisory body in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Shura Council has no executive or legislative authority.   It has the power to propose laws to the King and Council of Ministers. It cannot pass or enforce laws, which are powers reserved for the King. It has 150 members, all of whom are appointed by the King. Since 2013, the Assembly has included 30 women members. The Consultative Assembly is headed by a Speaker.

The Consultative Assembly is permitted to propose draft laws and forward them to the King, but only the King has the power to pass or enforce them. The Assembly does, however, have the power to interpret laws, as well as examine annual reports referred to it by state ministries and agencies. It can also advise the King on policies he submits to it, along with international treaties and economic plans. The Assembly is also authorized to review the country's annual budget, and call in ministers for questioning.

The influence of the Assembly in its present form comes from its responsibility for the Kingdom's five-year development plans, from which the annual budgets are derived, its ability to summon government officials for questioning, and its role as policy debate forum.

Following the Shura re-shuffle women now account for a 20 percent quota in the Council. Women were first accepted onto the 150 seat council in 2013, a year before they were given the vote in the country. 

                                                              Khalid Bhatti 

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