Originally Published 2013-09-11 04:02:23 Published on Sep 11, 2013
Royal succession is considered to be the 'prickliest' problem facing the Saudi kingdom. It can bring about a fundamental change in Saudi politics and can have an overarching impact on Saudi society and its national and foreign policies.
Who is going to be the next King in Saudi Arabia?
" Royal succession is considered to be the ’prickliest’ problem facing the kingdom1 . The crown, sooner or later, has to be passed on to the new generation and this presents the kingdom with a significant political threat as it can have a big effect on its stability. Understanding the political and legal aspects of succession in Saudi Arabia is of prime importance. In a kingdom which is based on the principles of hierarchy, it is pivotal to analyse and to a certain extent predict the possibilities of succession in the oil rich kingdom. The succession can bring about a fundamental change in Saudi politics and can have an overarching impact on Saudi society and its national and foreign policies. Role of Allegiance Council In October 2006, a decree (A/135) was released by the royal court to amend the ’Basic Law’ and introduce a Bayah. The ’Basic Law’ in Saudi can be considered its constitution as it outlines rules and norms for Kingdom’s citizens. The "Allegiance Institutional Law"2 , discusses the possibilities and procedures in case either the King or Crown Prince, or both, pass away or fall ill. If the King dies, the Crown Prince according to the Basic Law of governance will be proclaimed King. When the new King is appointed, he will then appoint his own Crown Prince. The Allegiance council sets out a procedure to do so. Article 7 states that, the new King will nominate three candidates and the council will appoint one of them as the new Crown Prince. In a situation where the council rejects all potential nominees, it has the right to choose its own Crown Prince. However, in the subsequent sections, there are clear hints of absolute monarchy in function. The King can at any point instruct the Council to appoint a new Crown Prince. If both are perceived to be unfit to rule, a five-member Transitory Ruling Council will be appointed to look after the Kingdom’s affairs (Article 12). In addition, Article 10 of the ’law’ dictates that the Transitory Council should protect State’s unity and look after its internal and external interests. However, the Transitory Council does not have the right to amend any State laws, including the Basic Law of Governance. The articles of this law place heavy emphasis on ’medical health’ and incapacity to rule because of health reasons. There is a possibility that some factions of House of Saud can take advantage of this ambiguity in order to pursue their vested interests. If both the King and Crown Prince pass away simultaneously, then, according to Article 13 of the Basic Law, the council will appoint a new candidate from the sons and many grandsons of King Abdulaziz al-Saud, who will take a pledge of allegiance in line with the Basic Law of Governance. There is an interesting section in the law which elaborates on seniority and the will to maintain Ibn Saud’s family line. According to Article 15, the Allegiance council will be headed by the eldest son of Abdulaziz and the second oldest brother will be the deputy. Secretive nature that defines House of Saud is still visible in the Kingdom and is also present in its official workings. The law dictates that all the meetings of the council "will be held behind closed doors." This opacity raises a number of questions about the value of the Council and its functions3 . The council can be scrutinised by suggesting that at least in principle, after the death of King Abdullah, the new King can dissolve or amend the rules of the council to suit his wishes. Although the council has allowed for less prominent family to be represented, the rules, however, restrict the ’cadet’ branches from seizing power. Talal bin Abdulaziz (son of Ibn Saud) criticized the Allegiance council by condemning the accession of Saudi princes to senior positions which is proving the council to be ineffective in appointing an heir to the crown. This criticism was in the light of the appointment of Salman bin Abdulaziz (son of Ibn Saud) and Nayef bin Abdulaziz (son of Ibn Saud)4 . The "Allegiance Institutional Law’ makes little reference to the role of religious authorities in the decision making process. While this can be viewed as a decision to further isolate the religious authorities in the Kingdom to gather international support, it can also be argued that it merely reflects the declining role of the religious authorities in the decision making process. Succession within current generation The appointment of Prince Muqrin (Youngest son of Ibn Saud) as Deputy Prime minister has opened up the possibility of continuing the shuffle of power between Ibn Saud’s many sons. However, only a few of them are politically able and physically capable of being crowned as the King of Saudi Arabia. This section will outline the succession possibilities within the current generation. In doing so, it will outline the traits of each candidate. Sudairis Four out of the Sudairi seven factions are alive, but only one of them is a serious contender to the crown. Salman bin Abdulaziz (b. 1936) was appointed as the defence minister in 2011 and is the current Crown Prince 5 . He is the son of Ibn Saud and Hassa Al Sudairi. He is often perceived as a political moderate who has been in close contact with Obama and Cameron. He has experience in urban development as an administrator of Riyadh and is considered open to reform and a liberal by Saudi standards. He has been involved in reforming Saudi media; this has been possible due to his sons owning the al-sharaq al -Awsat6 . He is perceived as the mediator within the House of Saud. However, Salman has been reported to be ill and not up to the job7 . Non Sudairis Mishaal bin Abdulaziz (b. 1926) is the son of Ibn Saud and Shahida. He is also the eldest surviving son of Ibn Saud. He is the chairman of the Allegiance Council and can influence the decision-making process. However, he has little hope for becoming the King because of his age and health condition. He has suffered multiple strokes and it can be suggested that his prospect of becoming the King has therefore been passed to the much younger sons of Ibn Saud. Muqrin bin Abdulaziz (b. 1945) is the son of Ibn Saud and Baraka al Yamaniyah. He is the youngest surviving son of Ibn Saud. Prince Muqrin was appointed as the second Deputy Prime Minister in February 2013.8 The post of a deputy Prime Minister is viewed as "crown prince in waiting." This further complicates succession in the Kingdom as the position and the role of the deputy prime minister is not mentioned in the "Allegiance Institutional Law" and therefore producing uncertainty as to what role will the deputy prime minister play in succession politics. Political analysts have considered this move as a non official recognition of hierarchy in Saudi and argue that by appointing Prince Muqrin, the Kingdom has dodged instability. It can be suggested that in a system which does not have any well laid rules, uncertainty will prevail and often contribute to instability. But suggesting that the line of succession in the foreseeable feature is clear will be highly inaccurate as promotion of Prince Muqrin has challenged a core principle of succession in Saudi. Muqrin’s appointment has challenged the conventional wisdom that having a Saudi mother is considered to be an advantage when ’contesting’ for elite political positions in the Kingdom and therefore bringing in other possibilities of succession. Muqrin’s mother was a Yemeni and is considered an outcast. Moreover, this can create internal divide within the House of Saud as other princes can refuse to recognise Muqrin as their King, regarding their family lines as superior and more "pure." They can also refuse to swear by the pledge of allegiance. It can also be argued that the logic that supports Ibn Saud’s youngest son, Prince Muqrin, often forgets the role played by the Allegiance Council and the possibility that the crown can bypass anyone that is deemed unsuitable for the crown. Succession to the next generation It is certain that the crown has to pass to the next generation as Ibn Saud’s many sons are steadily declining in number. It is also certain that in line with Saudi Basic Law and social conventions, succession in the Kingdom will solely be handled by Ibn Saud’s army of grandsons. This section, keeping with the Allegiance law and other factors which affect the succession plans, will outline the contenders for the Saudi crown. Sudairis →  Sultan bin Abdulaziz (1928-2011) was the son of Ibn Saud and Hassa al Sudairi. He was one of the Sudairi seven brothers and was the Crown Prince from 2005-2011 under King Abdullah. 1)    Khalid bin Sultan (b.1949) is the eldest son of Sultan bin Abdulaziz. He was appointed as deputy defence minister after Sultan’s death but was later removed in 2013 and replaced by Fahd bin Abdullah9 . He led the regional forces in the 1991 Gulf war. It was suspected that he would be made the defence minister after his father passed away, but the ministry was taken over by Salman bin Abdulaziz 10 . 2)    Bandar bin Sultan (b.1949) served as ambassador to the US between 1983 and 2005 and therefore knowledgeable about Saudi’s most important ally. He is known to have ties with US politicians. Presently he is the Director General of the Security Intelligence Agency. According to Wikileaks sources, it has been reported that Bandar argues for greater ties with Israel and considers Iran a bigger threat than Israel11 . However, there is little know about his recent activities and he has made limited public appearances. It can also be suggested that his chances of becoming the King or Crown Prince are minimal because his mother was considered to be a outsider12 . 3)    Salman bin Sultan (b.1976) is the son of Sultan bin Abdulaziz. He was appointed as deputy defence minister replacing Fahd bin Abdullah. He has also served as a first lieutenant at the Saudi embassy in Washington DC. By replacing Fahd bin Abdullah, yet gain a minor branch was sidelined. It has been contended that Princes who are serious about establishing themselves and holding top portfolios, by convention are required to have served in security positions13 . →  Fahd bin Abdulaziz (b.1920) was the son of Ibn Saud and Hassa al Sudairi. He was the King from 1982 to 2005. He was one of the Sudairi seven brothers. 1)    Muhammed bin Fahd (b.1950) is the son of Fahd bin Abdulaziz. He was the former governor of the Eastern Province 14 . He resigned from his post as the governor in January 2013 citing his lack of success in stopping the riots in the region as the reason 15. Given his position in the government and his relations with other princes, he has often been cited as a contender to the crown16 . →  Nayef bin Abdulaziz (b.1933) was the son of Ibn Saud and Hassa al sudairi. He was the Crown Prince from 2011-2012. Nayef family due to recent events has been granted control of kingdoms internal security and oil, a sector which is essential for the Saudi’s economic growth and internal stability17 . Now the Eastern Province which is the largest Province in Saudi and site for oil production is managed by Saud bin Nayef. 1)    Muhammad bin Nayef: (b.1959) is the son of Nayef bin Abdulaziz and Al Jawhara bint Abdulaziz bin Musaed Al Jiluwi. In 2011 Prince Muhammad bin Nayef was appointed as the Minister of Interior, a position which is often compared to the U.S secretary of homeland security18 . He was the first from his generation to attain a ministerial position. He has been seen as a future candidate to the crown and one which will initiate the transition to the next generation. Obama met Muhammad in the White house and this is perceived as a subtle U.S signal to the Kingdom that it approves Muhammad to lead Saudi Arabia. It has been suggested that Muhammad’s promotion has invoked jealousy among his cousins and his uncles19 . The U.S support for Muhammad also comes from the fact that he has led a successful internal campaign against al-Qaeda in the past decade. →  Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (b.1924) is the son of Ibn Saud and Fahda bint Asi Al Shuraim. He is the current King of Saudi Arabia and has no real brothers. 1)    Miteb bin Abdullah (b.1952) is the son of King Abdullah and Munira al Otaishan. He was appointed as the commander of the Saudi National Guard in 2010. Dorsey argued that his appointment can be seen as King Abdullah’s wish to hand over the power to the younger generation. In May 2013, King Abdullah created a new Ministry of National Guard and made Miteb as its head. This can be seen as a strategic move by Abdullah to preserve his own family line and eliminate any competition from the Sudairi brothers. Wibhey argued that, Miteb possess many of the desirable skills which a future King should have, such as connection with the tribal leaders and having a conservative approach towards modernization 20. However, it can be suggested that in light of recent political turmoil in the region and the succession in Qatar; Saudi Arabia should follow a cautious approach and appoint someone who is acceptable to the international community but is also well respected within the al Saud family. Endnotes: 1.    House, Karen. On Saudi Arabia. Alfred A. Knope (2012) 2.    The Allegiance Institution Law(2006). Available: http://www.saudiembassy.net/archive/2006/transcript/Page4.aspx 3.    Ibid. 4.    SAB/HGH/AZ . (2012). Saudi Allegiance council ineffective. Available: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/247178.html. 5.    "Saudi Arabia names Prince Salman as new defence minister". BBC News. 5 November 2011 6.    al Baker, Basheer (3 November 2011). "Prince Salman Seeks Balance in Saudi Transitional Period". Al Akhbar 7.    "With Prince Muqrin’s Appointment, Saudi Succession Crisis Looms". The Daily Beast. 3 February 2013 8.    "Who Will Be the Next King of Saudi Arabia?" Simon Henderson February 12, 2013 9.    "Saudi deputy defence minister Prince Khalid Bin Sultan replaced". Gulf News. Reuters. 20 April 2013 10.    "10 Saudi Royals Who Could Become the Next Crown Prince". Riyadh Bureau. 2013. 11.     "Crown Prince Sultan backs the King in family". Wikileaks. 12 February 2007. 12.    "10 Saudi Royals Who Could Become the Next Crown Prince". Riyadh Bureau. 2013 13.    "Son of former Saudi crown prince named deputy defense minister". Reuters. 6 August 2013 14.    http://www.datarabia.com/royals/famtree.do?id=176534 15.    Kechichian, Joseph (16 January 2013). "Saudi’s Eastern Province post of grave importance". Gulf News. 16.    Lippman, Thomas W. (16 June 2012). "Saudi Arabia Moves Closer to A New Generation of Leaders". Al Monitor. 17.    Al-Rasheed "The unpredictable succession plan of Saudi Arabia". April 23 2013 18.    Henderson, Simon. "Who Will Be the Next King of Saudi Arabia?" February 12, 2013 19.    Henderson, Simon. "To stop Iran get a new Saudi King" The Atlantic, January 2013 20.    Succession in Saudi Arabia: The not so silent Struggle http://www.iasps.org/strategic4/SA.htm Wihbey, Pual. "
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