The Saudi Dynasty Succession Crisis to Come

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June 2 2014 2:51 PM

The Saudi Dynasty Succession Crisis to Come

91068811-in-this-handout-image-provided-by-kaust-king-abdullah
Who will follow?

Photo by Scott Nelson/KAUST via Getty Images

This post first appeared on Business Insider

The Saudi dynasty is facing its biggest dynastic challenge in 50 years, and Game of Thrones-style cracks are showing in the imminent transition from King Abdullah’s rule. 

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Liz Sly of the Washington Post details growing discontent in the royal family after the contentious appointment of the king’s youngest brother, Muqrin, as the deputy heir.

The choice of Muqrin, a British-educated fighter pilot who has close ties to the U.S., is controversial partly because he is the son of a Yemeni concubine who was never formally married to his father, King Abdulaziz Al-Saud, who founded the Saudi state  in 1932.

“He is not a real prince; his mother was a slave and there are other brothers who are more competent,” a former Saudi official told Sly. “Nobody believes Muqrin can become king.”

The newly-created title effectively allows Muqrin, 69, to bypass at least two other brothers, which goes against the unspoken rule that succession passes down according to age.

King Abdullah is believed to be around 90 and his immediate successor, Crown Prince Salman, is 79. Both are in poor health.

Over the last six decades, the succession mostly passed brother to brother in order of their age. But the last of the current line of brothers will die soon, passing power to the third generation of the family.

Sly explains the problem that consequently arises:

"Given that there are scores of princes in [the third generation], the potential for discord is high. Whoever inherits the throne is likely to anoint his own brothers as future heirs, thereby cutting out multiple cousins from access to the throne and the patronage it provides."

This chart from The Washington Institute lays out the line of succession up to this point Murquin is one of the "19 other surviving sons":

saudisuccession

The Washington Institute

Michael Kelley is a reporter at Business Insider. Follow him on Twitter.

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