Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has died at the age of 90. The Royal Court said in a statement broadcast across the kingdom that King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud had died at exactly 1:00 a.m. Friday. King Abdullah became king of the oil-rich nation, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, in August 2005. But he had been running Saudi Arabia since 1996, after his half-brother King Fahd’s stroke. He was the kingdom’s sixth king.
Although the Saudi Royal Court didn’t disclose the exact cause of death, Saudi Press Agency had revealed the king had a lung infection when he was admitted on December 31 last year to King Abdulaziz Medical City Hospital in Riyadh. Almost immediately, the world’s largest oil exporter announced that Abdullah’s brother – Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz – had assumed the throne, as the seventh king.
While half-brother 79-year-old Crown Prince Salman had been installed as the new king, primarily to ensure smooth transition and to prevent political uncertainties, it was reported that Salman is in poor health himself. Salman has been crown prince and defense minister since 2012, and prior to that he was governor of Riyadh province for five decades. The new king Salman has named his half-brother Muqrin as his crown prince and heir.
After the death of King Abdullah, global oil price surged, with futures rose as much as 3.1% in New York. The oil market is reacting bullishly to this news because it may usher in a period of “uncertainty” as far as Saudi policies going forward as new leadership takes over. King Salman is not expected to make any major changes as far as the oil production is concerned, hence the sudden bullish in other oil producing countries could be temporary.
Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia future royal succession crisis is far from over. The royal members are all sons of King Abdulaziz al-Saud, who founded the kingdom in 1932. With Muqrin himself aged 69 and allegedly not a real prince, the fights for the throne could get uglier and worse when other princes and princess lay their claims. Muqrin is said to be a son of a Yemeni concubine who was never formally married to his father, King Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
When King Abdullah took the unusual step of naming Muqrin as a deputy heir, royal tongues have been wagging behind closed doors about his validity. Other royal members do not believe Muqrin could become king as his mother was considered a slave. But the British-educated fighter pilot who has close ties to the United States is allegedly popular among ordinary people, who say he is not corrupt.
Apparently, the founder of the Saudi state, King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, decreed only that his first son would inherit the throne, and over the subsequent 6 decades the succession passed from brother to brother in order of their age. But soon, the last of the current line of brothers (of which there were at least 35) will die, necessitating a transfer of power to the brothers’ sons – the third generation of the family.
In light of the poor health of Salman, who is said to be suffering a form of dementia, the appointment of a relatively youthful Muqrin, makes perfect sense as it would ensure years of stability to the kingdom. Still, with Muqrin jumping queue and skipped over at least two other brothers, the potential for royal discord is high. His advantage – supports from western countries, who can influence the palace of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
With due respect, after the king’s death, British Queen Elizabeth II is now the world’s oldest living reigning monarch. The queen is 88, and will turn 89 on April 21, while her husband Prince Philip is 93-years-old. Next month will mark her 63rd year on the throne, having acceded when her father, King George VI, died in February 1952. And on September 10 this year, she will pass her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, as the longest reigning British monarch ever.
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