RIYADH (Asharq Al Awsat and Agencies) – Saudi Arabia said on Friday a committee of princes will vote on the eligibility of future generations of kings and crown princes, in an apparent bid to formalise the succession process.
The system will not take effect until Crown Prince Sultan, heir to King Abdullah, becomes king, a statement from the royal court said.
The committee will be made up of sons and grandsons of late King Abdul Aziz al-Saud, founder of modern Saudi Arabia and father of the current king and crown prince, said the statement signed by King Abdullah.
It did not specify the size of the committee, to be called the Allegiance Institution. It will be chaired by the eldest son or grandson of King Abdul Aziz.
The step was taken in the “general interest”, it said. It is part of an amendment of the Basic Law, the name given to the monarchy’s constitution.
The previous system gave the king full prerogative to name the crown prince although Western diplomats say such decisions are often debated within the royal circle.
Under the new system the Allegiance Institution will have a say in the appointment of a crown prince suggested by the king.
If the institution rejects the nominated crown prince, it may vote for one of three princes the king nominates for the title.
The appointment of the new crown prince must be done within 30 days of the accession of a new king, the statement added.
Five members of the institution will form a Transitory Ruling Council which would take over the running of state affairs for a maximum period of one week if neither the king nor the crown prince are fit to rule the country, it said.
The Transitory Ruling Council will not enjoy prerogatives affecting state institutions, such as dissolving the government or the country’s self-styled parliament, and will not be able to amend the Basic Law or any “laws that are linked to the rule”.
Mohammed al-Zulfa, a member of the advisory Shura Council, said the move would ensure “that only the eligible sons of King Abdul Aziz will get to rule” Saudi Arabia. “It will bring inner peace among members of the royal family and among citizens. The system is clear now,” he said.
Shura Council is a sort of parliament whose members are appointed by the king.
“This is a turning point that will ensure the continuity of the ruling family,” Zulfa told Al Arabiya Television.
“King Abdullah has … made this decision at a crucial time, the kingdom is going through a phase of change and development and he wanted society to be in safe hands in the future”.
Among the constitutional articles:
Based on a royal decree, a committee called the Allegiance Institution will be formed. It will be comprised of:
1.The sons and grandsons of the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, the late King Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman al Faisal al Saud
2.The grandsons of the founder, King Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman al Faisal al Saud, as selected and appointed by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, whose fathers are either deceased, medically proven to be incapacitated, or who have rejected the throne, only if the sons are proven eligible and capable.
3.Two members as appointed by the king, one of his own sons and one of the crown prince’s sons, only if proven eligible and capable.
If any of the above relinquishes their post as part of the Allegiance Institution Committee, the king will appoint a substitute, in accordance with sections 2 and 3 of this article.
In the case of the king’s death, the Allegiance Institution Committee will pledge allegiance to the crown prince, in accordance with this system and the monarchy.
1.After the King is sworn in, he will nominate the crown prince after consulting with the members of the three groups within the committee, as he sees fit. After presenting his choices to the committee, they will unanimously nominate one of the candidates as crown prince. In the case that the committee does not agree to any of the choices, they will nominate the crown prince as they see fit.
2.It is the king’s prerogative to ask the committee to nominate a crown prince at any time.
If the king does not approve of the committee’s nominations, in accordance with sections 1 and 2 of this article, the committee will vote between its nominated choice and another candidate nominated by the king. The crown prince will be selected on the basis of gaining the most votes. In the case of a draw, the king’s word overrules.
The crown prince is selected in accordance with Article 7 within a period of 30 days from the King’s accession.
The committee will form a Transitory Ruling Council comprised of five members of the committee who will be in charge of managing the country’s affairs, only temporarily and in accordance with what is agreed upon within the system.
The congress reserves no right to change or amend the main ruling system, or that of the congress itself, the Council of Ministers, the Shura Council, the Municipal Councils, the state and security authorities, or any other body related to the rule. It does not reserve the right to dissolve the Council of Ministers or the Shura Council, nor can it form new ones. During this transitional period, the congress will be in charge of maintaining national unity and will manage the country’s internal and external affairs as well as the country’s governing systems.
If the Allegiance Institution Committee receives convincing evidence that the presiding king and crown prince can no longer resume their rule due to health reasons, the committee will consult with the medical board that is agreed upon within this system to prepare a medical report on their state of health. If the medical report evinces that they cannot resume their rule only temporarily, the committee will provide a report to prove that, after which the Transitory Ruling Council will begin to assume the duty of managing the country’s and the people’s affairs until they recover. After a written report from the king or crown prince is sent to the committee stating that they have recovered from illness, and after the committee is convinced, it will request a medical report from the aforementioned medical board that must be issued within 24 hours. If the report proves that they have fully recovered and are fit to rule, they may resume their rule.
If the medical report proves that they are unfit to rule and are terminally ill, the committee will provide a report to prove this, after which the Transitory Ruling Council will begin to assume the duty of managing the country’s affairs. During this time, which cannot exceed seven days, the committee will choose the person it sees most fit to rule from the sons of the founding King Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman al Faisal al Saud after which it will pledge allegiance to him in accordance with these rules and regulations and those of the ruling system.
In the case of the death of the presiding king and the crown prince simultaneously, the committee, in a period that cannot exceed seven days, will choose the person it sees most fit to rule from the sons of the founding King Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman al-Faisal al-Saud after which it will pledge allegiance to him in accordance with these rules and regulations and those of the ruling system.
The Transitory Ruling Council will begin to assume the duty of managing the country’s affairs until the committee has pledged allegiance to the king.
The medical board will be comprised of:
1.The medical representative for the monarchial hospitals
2.The medical director of the King Faisal specialist Hospital
3.Three deans from medical faculties in the Kingdom, as selected by the committee
The committee is in charge of issuing the aforementioned medical reports and it is its prerogative to consult with doctors as it sees fitting.
The committee meetings will not be considered valid or regular unless two-thirds of the members are present, including the president of the committee or his representative. Following what is stated in Article 7, the committee will make its decisions based on the majority of votes of those present. In the case of a draw, the side on which the president of the committee has voted prevails. In emergency cases where half of the members cannot be present, the decisions will be made with the unanimous consent of two-thirds of those present.
Voting for committee decisions will be undergone using a secret ballot system that will follow a model which will be devised for this purpose.