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King Abdullah’s Legacy For Saudi Arabia
Continuity, stability, order. King Abdullah would have been proud that these are the things most of his countrymen—indeed much of the world—will remember him for. And he would be relieved that they also marked the hours and days that followed his passing, from pneumonia, on January 22. His anointed successor and half-brother Crown Prince Salman immediately took command (although he has been pulling the levers of power for some time now, as Abdullah’s health deteriorated) and indicated there would be no major changes in policy, personnel (with senior figures such as oil minister Ali Al-Naimi kept in situ) or in Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical stance. To the relief of many, 78-year-old Salman immediately appointed another half-brother, 69-year-old Prince Muqrin, as crown prince and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as deputy crown prince, thus guaranteeing the succession and easing fears about ongoing rivalry.
So what can observers expect in the coming months? Not much change, is probably the answer, coupled with some continued, modest liberalization—for example, in the status of women and in human rights—but nothing that would unbalance the strict Wahabbist interpretation of Sunni Islam that provides the ruling House of Saud with much if its legitimacy. Besides, in a region racked by violence and uncertainty, stability has served Saudi Arabia well and is appreciated by most of its people.
~ Justin Keay