King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died at the age of 90, bringing to an end the rule of the world’s oldest monarch and casting new uncertainty on the future of one of the world’s most conservative but influential countries.
The king, who succeeded to the “Custodianship of the Two Holy Mosques”, as the country terms its monarchy, in August 2005, died late on Thursday. He will be succeeded by his 79-year-old half-brother, Salman, the Royal Court announced.
New King Salman immediately confirmed Prince Muqrin as Crown Prince and his heir, confirming the implicit decision of the royal Allegiance Council which made him deputy Crown Prince in a split vote last year.
By the standards of the region, Abdullah was a reformer and rather Western aligned. It will be interesting to see how his successor addresses those issues. Whatever his sympathies, he’ll be facing competing pressures from both those who wish to align with the West and those who favor a more, shall we say, authoritarian form of government. And not having the power base that Abdullah had after his long reign, it will be difficult for Salman to simply rule by decree.
UPDATE: The smart take on future events.
I feel comfortable predicting that the outcome of the Saudi succession period will make things worse. Because things are always worse in ME
— Drew McCoy (@DrewMTips) January 23, 2015