King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died at the age of 90 and will be succeeded by Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz. An official statement was released by the Royal Council; this statement only told us that King Abdullah passed away at 1AM local time in Saudi Arabia on Friday.
Following this announcement Crown Prince Salam appeared on state television mourning the loss of his half-brother. With the news that Crown Prince Salam will become the next king, Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, who was Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief between 2005 and 2012, will replace Salman as Crown Prince.
The Saudi Arabian television channels, which are run by MBC, have in the interim begun playing Quranic verses to mourn the passing of King Abdullah, who came to power in 2005. This was however not a death that was unforeseen, King Abdullah had suffered from pneumonia in December and was hospitalised for treatment.
The man who will now take the Saudi throne, Crown Prince Salman, was the former governor of the Riyadh province from 1963 until 2011 and has served as the country’s Minister of Defence since leaving his position as governor. Upon his appointment as Crown Prince, Salman was widely respected for his focus on improving the Kingdom’s economy.
The new ruler is also known for his “shrewd diplomatic skills”, but in terms of diplomacy he moves cautiously and slowly when it comes to “social and political reforms” within the Kingdom. This means we in the West should not expect a radical change in social issues such as women’s rights; but we might see some movement on economic inclusion and trade with other nations.
According to Al-Akhbar, a Saudi news source, Salman, “has advanced opinions on reform and is welcoming of dialogue with opposition members. He enjoys a plethora of relationships with intellectuals from various political persuasions, both inside and outside the country.”
This is not all good news however as reports from The Atlantic and The Economist state that Salman suffers from poor health in general. This more specifically includes dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While these reports have never been confirmed by Saudi Arabia’s royal family, the new king suffered from a stroke in 2011, impacting his ability to properly use his left arm.
US President Barack Obama hailed King Abdullah as a bold leader and praised the Kingdom’s “warm” and “genuine” relationship with the United States. The French President Francois Hollande, meanwhile described the late King as “a statesman whose work has profoundly marked the history of his country.”