Succession dilemma for Al Saud family

Beirut: Even before the Saudi Crown Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz was laid to rest in Makkah, leading Al Saud family members recognised they had a succession problem.

To remedy shortcomings associated with a handful of senior princes settling on a successor, King Abdallah Bin Abdul Aziz introduced a specific mechanism in 2007 by creating an Allegiance Commission whose writ was to oversee selections through a carefully laid out voting procedure.

Even if untested, the device was a novelty, and geared to avoid potential crises although few anticipated the death of two heirs over the course of a year.

How Riyadh planned to activate the Allegiance Commission to “elect” a new Crown Prince, and whether its 34 current members [a 35th seat was vacant] would quickly settle on Defence Minister Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, were largely theoretical questions.

More important than this immediate appointment was the pace of political reforms that confronted Saudi Arabia that, in the aftermath of various uprisings throughout the Arab World, highlighted the necessity for urgent actions.

Interestingly, and as recently as mid-2005, Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz called on Riyadh to “start with political reform, that is introducing a new basic stature (of government), or what is known in the West as a constitution.