Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia

This article is about Saudi Arabia's advisory body. For the Egyptian legislature, see Shura Council.
Saudi Consultative Assembly
مجلس الشورى السعودي
Majlis al-Shūra al-Saʿūdiyy
Coat of arms or logo
Seats 150
Appointment by the King
Meeting place
Al Yamamah Palace, Riyadh

The Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia, also known as Majlis Ash-Shura or Shura Council, is the formal advisory body of Saudi Arabia, which is an absolute monarchy. The Consultative Assembly has limited powers in government, including the power to propose laws to the King and cabinet, but it cannot pass or enforce laws, which is a power reserved for the King. It has 150 members, all of whom are appointed by the King. The Consultative Assembly is headed by a Speaker. The current speaker is Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al ash-Sheikh, in line with a tradition that kept the post in that family. The Assembly is based in the Al Yamamah Palace, Riyadh.


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.[1]

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.[2]


The first Majlis al Shura (Consultative Assembly) was founded by King Abdulaziz on 13 January 1926.[3] It was chaired by his son, Prince Faisal.[4] However, the complete institutionalization of the assembly was finalized in 1932.[3] Later, it was expanded to include twenty-five members at the beginning of King Saud's reign. However, its functions were transferred to the Ministers Cabinet due to political pressures of the royal family members. On the other hand, Majlis al Shura was not officially dissolved and remained ineffective until King Fahd revived it in 2000.[4]

King Fahd decreed a new Majlis Al Shura Law on 24 November 2000, which replaced the previous law that had been effective since 1928, and decreed the bylaws of the council and their supplements on 22 August 1993. The first term council (1993–1997) had a speaker and 60 members.[5]:949 The membership was increased by 30 in each of the following terms: the second term 90 members (1997–2001),[5]:950 third term (2001–2005) and fourth term (2005–2009). Thus, the number of members increased to 150 members plus the speaker in the fourth term council.

Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al ash-Sheikh with British foreign secretary William Hague in London, 5 March 2013

Having been expanded in 1997 and 2001, the council achieved a place in the International Parliamentary Union by the end of 2003. The fourth term council held 845 sessions and issued 1174 declarations during its second year.[6] In September 2011, just a few days before the 2011 municipal elections, King Abdullah stated that women may become members of the council.[7]

In January 2013, King Abdullah issued two royal decrees, granting women thirty seats on the council, and stating that women must always hold at least a fifth of the seats on the council.[8] According to the decrees, the female council members must be "committed to Islamic Shariah disciplines without any violations" and be "restrained by the religious veil."[8] The decrees also said that the female council members would be entering the council building from special gates, sit in seats reserved for women and pray in special worshipping places.[8] Earlier, officials said that a screen would separate genders and an internal communications network would allow men and women to communicate.[8] Women first joined the council in 2013, occupying thirty seats.[9][10] There are two Saudi royal women among these thirty female members of the assembly, Sara bint Faisal Al Saud and Moudi bint Khalid Al Saud.[11] Furthermore, in 2013 three women were named as deputy chairpersons of three committees: Thurayya Obeid was named deputy chairwoman of the human rights and petitions committee, Zainab Abu Talib, deputy chairwoman of the information and cultural committee, and Lubna Al Ansari, deputy chairwoman of the health affairs and environment committee.[9]


Sheikh Mohammed bin Ibrahim bin Jubair, who was a respected Hanbali jurist and former Minister of Justice, was appointed as the president of the first Council term and of successive ones.[5] He remained the president until his death in 2002, and was replaced by Saleh bin Abdullah bin Homaid.[12]

The fifth term council (2009–2012), which started on 28 February 2009, included the topic of no women[13] and is led by chairperson Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed al ash Sheikh,[13] who is former minister of Justice. He is regarded as a highly respected Islamic scholar, and its appointment is considered to be a move to reassure religious conservatives that the Majlis is being guided by Sharia in its deliberations.[2]

The deputy chairperson in the fifth term is Dr. Bandar bin Mohammed Hamza Asad Hajar.[14] Assistant chairman was Abdulrahman bin Abdullah Al Barrak from February 2009 to December 2011.[14] Secretary-general of the Assembly is Mohammed A. Al Ghamdi.[13] Al Ghamdi, whose four-year term expired in May 2012, was replaced by Mohammed al Amr as the new secretary general of the Council.[15]


Shura Council

The Council members appear to be chosen from different provinces, representing three significant groups: religious establishment, bureaucracy and the business groups. They seem to be followers of both conservative and liberal ideologies, and are usually highly educated and experienced people who are regarded as experts in their fields. Mostly academics, retired senior officers, ex-civil servants and businessmen have been chosen as the members of the council.[12]

2005–2009 term

The distribution of members based on their occupation for the 2005–2009 (fourth) term is as follows:[16]

Occupation Number (n=150) Percentage (%)
Academic (Ph.D.) 105 70
Bureaucrat/engineer 12 8
Bureaucrat/religious 4 2.6
Bureaucrat (master's or bachelor's degree) 25 16.7
Military 4 2.6

2009–2013 term

During the 2009–2013 term, half of the members (43% of the new appointees) had a university education in the United States, and 70 of them had PhDs. The Council members for the 2009–2013 term are considered to be technocrats who are experts rather than local leaders.[2] Their educational background was as follows: 16% bachelor's degrees; 13% master's degrees; 70% PhDs; and 1% MDs.[2] The distribution of the members in terms of countries where they were educated is as follows: 49% in the United States; 29% in Saudi Arabia; 16% in the United Kingdom; 3% in France; 1% in Germany; 1% in Egypt; and 1% in Pakistan.[2]

The representation of provinces at the Council is given below:[2]


In its original form, the Council consisted of eight specialized committees. These committees were identified in December 1995. Committees and their allocated number of members were as follows: Committee on Social and Health Affairs (7 members); Committee on Economic and Financial Affairs (8 members); Committee on Legislation and Administration (5 members); Committee on Foreign Affairs (7 members); Committee on Islamic Affairs (7 members); Committee on Service and the Public Sector (8 members); Committee on Education, Culture and Information Affairs (9 members); and Committee on Security Affairs (6 members).[17]

Later, the number of the committees was expanded. As of March 2015, the assembly consists of thirteen committees:[18]

As of September 2012, the council has 12 women advisors, mainly dealing with the issues in regard to women, families and children.[19]

See also


  1. Wilson, Peter W. and Graham, Douglas: Saudi Arabia: The Coming Storm (1994)
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Rundell, David (22 April 2009). "Saudi Consultative Council dominated By U.S.-educated experts". WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks cable: 09RIYADH598. Archived from the original on 12 January 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  3. 1 2 Al Kahtani, Mohammad Zaid (December 2004). "The Foreign Policy of King Abdulaziz" (PDF). University of Leeds. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  4. 1 2 Cordesman, Anthony H. (30 October 2002). "Saudi Arabia enters the 21st century: III. Politics and internal stability" (PDF). Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  5. 1 2 3 The Middle East and North Africa 2003. Taylor & Francis. 22 November 2002. ISBN 978-1-85743-132-2. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  6. "Shura in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: A Historical Background". Majlis ash Shura. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  7. "Saudis vote in municipal elections, results on Sunday". Oman Observer/AFP. 30 September 2011. Archived from the original on 14 December 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "Saudi king grants women seats on advisory council for 1st time". Fox News. 14 May 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  9. 1 2 "Women on 3 Shoura panels". Saudi Gazette. 25 February 2013. Archived from the original on 18 February 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  10. Al Mulhim, Abdulateef (23 February 2013). "Saudi Stability and Royal Succession". Arab News. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  11. "Breakthrough in Saudi Arabia: women allowed in parliament". Al Arabiya. 11 January 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  12. 1 2 Kapiszewski, Andrzej (2006). "Saudi Arabia: Steps Toward Democratization or Reconfiguration of Authoritarianism?f". Journal of African and Asian Studies. 41 (5-6): 459–482. doi:10.1177/0021909606067407. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  13. 1 2 3 "Saudi Arabia — Majlis Ash Shura (Consultative Council)". International Parliamentary Union. 2011. Archived from the original on 23 March 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  14. 1 2 "Next Shoura Council members". Saudi Gazette. 15 February 2009. Archived from the original on 13 September 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  15. "New Shoura secretary-general appointed". Arab News. 16 May 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  16. "Okaz Archive Consultative Assembly". Okaz. 15 September 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  17. Aba-Namay, Rashed (1998). "The New Saudi Representative Assembly". Islamic Law and Society. 5 (2): 235–265. doi:10.1163/1568519982599490. JSTOR 3399342.
  18. "Committees". Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia. 2015. Archived from the original on 23 March 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  19. Toumi, Habib (1 September 2012). "30 women likely to be on Saudi Shura Council". Gulf News. Manama. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
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