Prince Nayef appointed 3rd in line to Saudi throne
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz appointed his half-brother Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz as Second Deputy Premier. This effectively makes him in line to the throne, after Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, who is also First Deputy Premier. The King also takes the role as chairman of the council of ministers.
No further details were given by the tightly controlled Saudi press agency.
(27 March 2009 )
Analysis and forecast (↓ decreasing risk)
The appointment of Prince Nayef is an indication of an impending more dramatic change in the hierarchy of the of the Saudi royal family, most likely due to the serious illness of Crown Prince Sultan. By becoming Second Deputy Premier, Prince Nayef becomes the third in line to the Saudi throne.
Sources close to the royal family have indicated that the cancer treatment of Prince Sultan has failed and that he will likely not be able to practice his constitutional duties. Before the appointment of Prince Nayef as Second Deputy Premier, the succession line was not defined. As a result, if Prince Sultan died before such definition, the likelihood was that there would be a vacuum in the succession line until the senior members of the royal family agreed. With the appointment of Nayef, he will almost certainly become Crown Prince after Sultan’s death or incapacity. The appointment of Nayef also indicates an improved relationship between him and the King, which have traditionally been strained.
Although some sources often label Nayef as a traditionalist, even hinting at ties with Al Qaeda sympathizers, his elevation to 3rd in line is seen as an appeasement to the traditionalists and as a balance to the reformist moves the King undertook earlier in the year. Given his age and the popularity of the reforms at home and abroad, he will unlikely undo the reforms of Abdullah, if and when the time comes for him to become king. In fact, his new position within the reforming regime of Abdullah will be seen by traditionalist Saudis as an endorsement of those reforms.
Although some reformists within the royal family have expressed unhappiness with Nayef’s appointment, the appointment will be welcomed by the Saudi public. It will also alienate the more extreme traditionalist Wahabis who have been the target of the King’s latest reforms. The overall impact of the changes will be a more stable Saudi regime that is slowly being reformed, with support of the mainstream reformists and traditionalists.