(Reuters) - Concerns over succession in Saudi Arabia have risen with the octogenarian ruler King Abdullah recovering from medical treatment and after the death of Crown Prince Sultan.
Five years ago the king appointed an Allegiance Council to oversee the succession. The new rules were only designed to apply to kings and crown princes after King Abdullah and former Crown Prince Sultan. So Abdullah may still choose an heir to the throne without consulting the Allegiance Council.
Here are some details:
* WHAT IS THE ALLEGIANCE COUNCIL?
-- In the past, who became crown prince was determined in secret by the king and a small coterie of powerful princes. Under the new rules, the Allegiance Council, representing each branch of the al-Saud family should vote to approve King Abdullah’s nominated heir.
-- The council has a representative of each line of the al-Saud ruling family born to King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, the kingdom’s founder. As well as his surviving sons, it includes his grandsons representing kings and princes who have already died or are not well enough to participate.
-- It must be headed by the eldest son of the kingdom’s founder beside the king or crown prince. Prince Mishaal, who was born in 1926, was appointed by King Abdullah as chairman of the allegiance council.
* HOW DOES THE ALLEGIANCE COUNCIL WORK?
-- A crown prince must be appointed within 30 days of a new king ascending the throne.
-- The king nominates one, two or three candidates to become crown prince and the Allegiance Council votes to approve his choice or select one of his nominees. If the council does not find any of his candidates suitable, it can produce its own nominee from the sons or grandsons of Ibn Saud. In a departure from historical practice, the council has the ultimate say on succession instead of the king.
* WHAT HAPPENS IF THE KING OR CROWN PRINCE FALLS SICK?
-- If the king falls sick the council can assign a medical committee to declare him unfit to rule and transfer power temporarily to the crown prince. After King Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995 Abdullah’s ability to rule as crown prince was fettered because he was only de facto regent but without the formal title.
-- If a second medical report determines that the king is unable to resume his duties the Allegiance Council can elevate the crown prince in his place.
-- If both the king and crown prince fall ill, the council can set up a transitional authority of five princes to take charge until one of the top men recovers.
-- If a medical report determines that they will not recover, the council must elect a new king within a week from the sons or grandsons of the kingdom’s founder.
* PREVIOUS SUCCESSIONS:
-- Succession in Saudi Arabia has been passed down from the founder King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, who died in 1953, to his sons. So far five brothers have become kings and around 20 are still alive, many over the age of 80 years.
-- The last succession from the late King Fahd to King Abdullah in 2005 was smooth, but there have been previous crises.
-- Saudi Arabia’s second king, Saud, was deposed in 1964 by his own family when he was deemed incompetent after a power struggle with his half-brother Faisal. Faisal, his successor, was shot dead by a nephew who was then declared officially as insane.
Text of the new Allegiance Council Law-
Translation of the law made by U.S. diplomats and released by WikiLeaks-
Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit and Asma Alsharif in Jeddah
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