NPR : News

Saudi King Names 78-Year-Old Nayef Bin Abdulaziz As His Successor

As expected, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has appointed his half-brother, 78-year-old Nayef bin Abdulaziz, crown prince. The news comes, after the heir to the throne, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud died on Saturday.

According to a tweet from the Saudi embassy in the United States, Prince Nayef becomes deputy prime minister, a position traditionally held by the crown prince, and keeps his position as minister of interior.

Again, Prince Nayef was expected to become crown prince and by most accounts, that means Saudi Arabia's close relationship with the U.S. and position on geopolitical issues will remain the same.

In a story previewing the choice, Reuters does point out that Prince Nayef is more conservative than the king:

Conservative even by Saudi Arabia's austere standards, Nayef is sometimes portrayed as putting the brakes on the king's cautious political reforms. Earlier this year he publicly admonished a member of the mainly consultative Shura Council who had called for a review of the ban on women driving.

However, some diplomats and analysts say Nayef, who was born in 1933 and has served as interior minister since 1975, may show a more pragmatic side as crown prince — and eventually as king.

Perhaps the more interesting part of the story, however, is that the choice reveals that the royal family is aging and not in a hurry to hand over power to a new generation. Time reports that could cause tension in the long run:

With most of those directly in line to the throne hobbling about with canes, hip replacements or in wheel chairs, one could be forgiven for thinking of Saudi palaces as particularly well-appointed old age homes. The next few decades in Saudi Arabia are likely to be marked by a succession of funerals and coronations as the top position in the world's largest oil exporter cycles through a generation that had more to do with the Kingdom's foundations than it does with the country's future. As the crown passes from head to head, it is likely to slow the process of reform and progress in a kingdom that in many ways still feels mired in the last century. The ruling family's authoritarian grip on power may provide stability in the short term, but with half the population under the age of 18, and with a leadership almost entirely above the age of 70, it seems inevitable that tensions will rise.

"These demographics are a warning bell no matter how old or young the leadership is," [says Gregory Gause, International Relations professor at the University of Vermont]. "This time the Saudis dodged the oncoming train of the Arab spring, but its not because they don't have problems. They do. Unemployment is high in Saudi, just like it was in Egypt and Tunisia."

Correction at 7:30 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this post referred to King Abdullah as being from Egypt. We've corrected that reference.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Easy' Writer: Walter Mosley's Passion For Bringing Black L.A. Stories To Life

In Charcoal Joe, Walter Mosley brings his iconic private eye Easy Rawlins into the haze of the late 60s, extending a literary odyssey through the transformation of black Los Angeles.
NPR

Salvage Supperclub: A High-End Dinner In A Dumpster To Fight Food Waste

The ingredients — think wilted basil, bruised plums, garbanzo bean water — sound less than appetizing. Whipped together, they're a tasty meal that show how home cooks can use often-tossed foods.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour – LIVE from Slim's Diner!

This special edition of the Politics Hour is coming to you live from Slim's Diner from Petworth in Northwest D.C.

NPR

Writing Data Onto Single Atoms, Scientists Store The Longest Text Yet

With atomic memory technology, little patterns of atoms can be arranged to represent English characters, fitting the content of more than a billion books onto the surface of a stamp.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.