Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Sorting out government, state, rule of law, and politics

Be very glad you're not trying to analyze Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia, Where Family and State Are One, Arrests May Be Selective
King Salman’s close relatives not only rule Saudi Arabia. They are also in business with it.

A major Saudi investment firm founded by one of the king’s sons, and now chaired by another, owns a significant stake in a conglomerate that does extensive government business… A smaller firm founded by another of his sons says it invests in health care, telecommunications, education and other regulated or state-funded fields.

None of that apparent conflict of interest seems to be against the law.

But now their brother, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is leading a sweeping crackdown against what he has labeled “corruption”… But his immediate family’s complicated and mostly undisclosed business interests are raising questions about what that accusation means in a kingdom where the law has so far included little or no regulation of what other countries have labeled and outlawed as self-dealing.

Saudi laws, issued by royal decree or derived from Islamic law, have so far included little or no regulation of the sprawling royal family and its closest clients. The family has never disclosed the sources of its income, how much its members might take from the country’s oil revenues, how much they earn from state contracts or how they afford their lavish lifestyles…

The kingdom, an absolute monarchy, has also never attempted to create an independent court system to adjudicate claims…

And it was unclear which branch of the court system might hear the cases — the main Shariah court system or the more specialized board of grievance courts that handle administrative complaints.

“The law is not meant to govern the ruling family in any meaningful way, or to govern the relations between the ruling family and the state,” said Nathan J. Brown, a scholar at George Washington University who studies Arab legal systems.

“Ultimately, the king and some high members of the royal family can do what they want and make it legal later,” he said, and the lack of regulation over royal self-dealing “opens the door wide to what would be considered corruption in other systems.”…

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