The Abode of Peace
Another tiny monarchy, perched on the northern shore of Borneo, Malaysia is – to give it its full name – the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace. Brunei only became independent from Britain in 1984, and it was then that the current sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, became head of state.
However, the Brunei sultanate has its origins in the late 14th century, so the 100 years in which the country was a British Protectorate is seen as but a temporary aberration.
Brunei is an absolute monarchy, with the sultan having full executive authority, including emergency powers. He is not only the head of state, but also the prime minister, finance minister, and defence minister. The sultan rules guided by a philosophy he calls Melayu Islamberaja (“Malay Islamic Monarchy”), which is a blend of Malay customs and culture, Islamic law, and the system of the monarchy. The sultan and his family have a venerated status within Brunei.
This form of monarchy may seem archaic, and would not be tolerated in many other parts of the world, but in Brunei it is remarkably stable and effective. Brunei is amongst the richest countries in the world (including in per capita GDP), and public debt is zero percent of the GDP. Economically, that’s an enviable position to be in, and it’s made possible by the country’s small population and high reserves of oil and natural gas. The sultan will mark his golden jubilee in 2018. He has only just turned 70, and he is in good health. The line of succession is already secured for the next two generations.
“There is no conflict between favouring Islamic and traditional values and being more open and international” – Hassanal Bolkiah This form of monarchy may seem archaic, and would not be tolerated in many other parts of the world, but in Brunei it is remarkably stable and effective