Under the 1959 constitution, the Sultan is the head of state with full executive authority and is assisted and advised by five councils – the Religious Council, the Privy Council, the Council of Cabinet Ministers, the Legislative Council and the Council of Succession.
The Legislative Council was suspended in 1984, since when the Sultan has ruled through emergency decree. He has sole power to amend the provisions of existing laws. There are no elections; the last election was held in 1962. The national ideology, Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB), invokes Islam and Brunei’s history in support of the Sultan’s absolute power, as well as the paramountcy of the Malays in Brunei.
In September 2004 a Legislative Council was revived and 21 members appointed, with no immediate timetable for election of the proposed 15 directly elected members. In September 2005 the Sultan dissolved the existing Legislative Council and appointed 29 new members.
The Parti Kebangsaan Demokratic Brunei (PKDB) or Brunei National Democratic Party, with a membership of about 3,000, mostly Malay businessmen and professionals, was formed in 1985. It called for free elections and an end to emergency rule. The party was de- registered in 1988, after failing to conform to the requirements of the law. The only legal and registered political party at present is the Parti Pembangunan (National Development Party).
The present Sultan, head of state and government and concurrently Prime Minister, Defence Minister and Finance Minister is Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Official policy is to encourage economic growth while preserving cultural and religious values.