After the death of King Abdullah, the Saudi Kingdom is facing its biggest dynastic challenge in 50 years.
Abdullah’s half-brother Salman, 79, will now assume the throne, with the 69-year-old Muqrin his crown prince and heir.
After that, there are no more sons of Saudi Arabia founder King Abdulaziz Al-Saud, so power then passes to a select few of Al-Saud’s many grandsons.
“Given that there are scores of princes” in the third generation — there are hundreds — “the potential for discord is high,” Liz Sly of The Washington Post explained last year. “Whoever inherits the throne is likely to anoint his own brothers as future heirs, thereby cutting out multiple cousins from access to the throne and the patronage it provides.”
However, Saudi Arabia’s new king is moving swiftly to make sure that a looming succession crisis — driven by chaotic jostling for power — does not happen.
King Salman has named his nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as deputy crown prince, making him second in line to the throne behind Muqrin.
Mohammed, believed to be in his 30s, is the country’s interior minister.
“Like his father, Nayef, who was a formidable power in Saudi Arabia until his death in 2012, Mohammed is head of the powerful Interior Ministry that oversees police and now too holds the title of crown prince,” Abdullah al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy of the Associated Press note.
Prince Mohammed’s father had a special place in the royal family.
Nayef, like Salman, was one of seven sons born to one of Saudi Arabia founder King Abdulaziz Al Saud’s most favoured wives, Hussa bint Ahmad Sudeiri. The seven full brothers are
known as the “Sudeiri Seven” and are seen as a center of power within the family. Nayef was one of Abdullah’s first two crown princes.
“We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” Salman said Friday in a televised speech.
King Salman’s royal decree places Prince Mohammed at the forefront of the historic generational transition that spurs succession fears.
King Salman appoints Muhammad bin Nayef as deputy crown prince-A major development indicating the beginning of the generational transition.
— Ali H. Soufan (@Ali_H_Soufan) January 23, 2015
And the time for the third generation of the Saud royal family to rule the dynasty is coming sooner rather than later.
Salman’s health is a question — he has suffered at least one stroke — and Muqrin is the youngest of King Abdulaziz, who founded the Saudi state in 1932.
This chart from The Washington Institute lays out the line of succession up to this point (Muqrin is one of the “19 other surviving sons”).
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