Brunei. As the Principality celebrated its 20-year independence during the year, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who inherited his post and governed Brunei uniquely, introduced limited reforms.
In September, Parliament was convened for the first time since 1984. Subsequently, the Sultan approved some amendments to the Constitution, which included: means that elections can be held for the first time since 1962. The 1962 elections ended with violence since the Socialist Party PRB (Partai Rakyat Brunei) won. The PRB was banned and the then Sultan continued to rule the principality.
In the upcoming elections, one-third of Parliament’s members will be elected in direct elections, while the others will be hand-picked by the Sultan. No date for the election has been announced. Some hope that the reforms will give the people of the country more to say, while others believe that the new parliament will only become a cover for the Sultan’s continued unrestricted power.
According to CountryAAH, the total population in Brunei is 437,490 people in 2020. Two former Brunei security services executives and one businessman were arrested at the beginning of the year on suspicion of treason. According to the government, the men’s behavior posed a threat to the security of the country and they were accused of revolt against the sultan. They were imprisoned under the laws of the country’s internal security, according to which people can be held in custody indefinitely without prosecution or trial. The arrested should have placed state secrets on an Internet site, where they also criticized the country’s regime for incompetence and neglect of the economy. One of the three, a former police chief, was also charged with espionage. The man is alleged to have disclosed secret information about Brunei to another country, unknown which. Following the arrests, the country’s security ministry urged the public to show more courtesy and choose the right channels to express their views.
In early February, the Swedish royal couple made a state visit to Brunei. The visit was well-watched by the local media. However, the sharp criticism that King Carl Gustaf received in Sweden for his tribute to the openness of Brunei was not addressed in the self-censoring Brunei media. There, instead, the focus was on hopes of increased business exchange between the countries.