The United States of America and Saudi Arabia are two completely different states. They are based on radically opposite principles. This paper aims to compare three features of the legal systems of these two countries, namely executive branch, legislature, and freedom of religion.
The US President is the head of state, government, commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The US President is elected for a four-year term and can be elected to this post no more than twice, and no more than once for those who for two or more years acted as President of the United States instead of another elected president (“United States”, 2018). The president and the vice-president are elected through indirect elections with the help of the Electoral College (“United States”, 2018).
In Saudi Arabia, the head of the executive is the king. His powers are unlimited in time. He appoints members of the Council of Ministers and manages this body (“Saudi Arabia”, 2018). Most ministers are appointed from members of the royal family. Decisions of ministers are taken based on Islamic law. The king has the right to dissolve and carry out the reorganization of the Council of Ministers. The king is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces (“Saudi Arabia”, 2018). He appoints and dismisses officers by his decree. The King has the right to delegate some of his powers to the Crown Prince, and to transfer power to him for the duration of his absence in Saudi Arabia.
The supreme legislative body is a bicameral parliament – the US Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate (“United States”, 2018). Each state has exactly two representatives in the Senate (senators). The number of members in the House of Representatives from each state is determined every ten years, depending on the size of the population of each state: the more people in comparison with other states, the more representatives (“United States”, 2018). Each state has at least one representative, regardless of the population. Senators are elected for a six-year term, representatives for a two-year term (“United States”, 2018).
Since 1993, the Consultative Council has existed under the Saudi king. It consists of members of the royal family and influential citizens of the country (“Saudi Arabia”, 2018). The Council is a legislative body with the help of which the king coordinates his decisions with influential representatives of various clans. Reports and recommendations of the Council are sent to the King, who has the right not to consider them when making decisions. The Council consists of a chairperson and 150 members, who are appointed by the king for a term of four years (“Saudi Arabia”, 2018). Ten members of the Advisory Board formally have the right to legislative initiative, but in fact without the consent of the royal family to use this right is almost impossible. There are no political parties; therefore, there is no direct representation of citizens in government bodies (“Saudi Arabia”, 2018).
Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion is enshrined in the US Constitution. The first amendment to the Constitution states that Congress should not issue any law relating to the establishment of religion or prohibiting free religion (“United States”, 2018). All religions are considered equal. There are numerous religious institutions across the country, including churches, mosques, Buddhist temples, etc. Moreover, the laws of America do not prohibit not believing in God and in no way limit atheists’ rights.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Islamic theocratic monarchy. According to the fundamental law, the official state religion is Sunnism (US Department of State, 2005). The basic law also states that the state protects human rights following the Islamic Sharia. The government of Saudi Arabia forbids open practice of any other religion. The only religious centers in the country are mosques. The government officially recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in private, except for the cities of Mecca and Medina, where non-Muslims are not allowed to enter (US Department of State, 2005). It is necessary to be a Muslim to become a citizen of the country, Unbelief in God in the kingdom is also a severe crime, and atheism equates to terrorism (“Saudi Arabia”, 2018). Thus, unlike the United States, Saudi Arabia does not recognize freedom of religion.
The paper has discussed three features of the legal systems of the United States and Saudi Arabia. Overall, it can be concluded that the USA is a more democratic country than Saudi Arabia. The head of the country – the president – is elected, and the legislative body consists of two political parties that represent different views of the American society. In Saudi Arabia, however, the King, who is not chosen by the people, decides everything.
- Saudi Arabia. (2018). CIA world factbook. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sa.html
- United States. (2018). CIA world factbook. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html
- U. S. Department of State. (2005). Saudi Arabia. Retrieved from https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2005/51609.htm