Crown Prince Bin Abdul Aziz
Crown Prince Bin Abdul Aziz US Department of Defense

In the wake of the death of Crown Prince, Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia is eyeing potential successors for King Abdullah, now 87.

At the head of the pack is Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, already 77, the powerful interior minister in charge of internal security forces, who is said to be closer to the country's conservative and hard-line Islamic elements than the king.

Abdullah already gave Prince Nayef — also his half-brother — the implicit nod in 2009 by naming him second deputy prime minister, traditionally the post of the second in line to the throne.

For the first time in Saudi history the mechanism of picking the next crown prince is not entirely clear — though the end result is in any case likely to be Prince Nayef.

The most likely route is for Abdullah to put the decision of his heir to the Allegiance Council. The council was created in 2006 by the king as one of his reforms, and is made of of his brothers, half-brothers, and nephews with a mandate to determine succession.

The council is intended to create consensus by first opening the choice to a degree of debate within the top echelons of the royal family. Under the council system the monarch nominates three candidates for the Allegiance Council to select a Crown Prince from.

If the council rejects all three of the king's candidates they may select one of their own, but the king also has the right to reject their candidate and insist on one of their own. In such an eventuality the allegiance council, which consists of five members of the House of Saud and two members of the rival Sudari line, holds a vote to determine which candidate will be King.

However, succession must be also be approved by the influential Ulema, a body of Islamic religious leaders and jurists, who must also prove new laws and royal decrees. Prince Nayef's, known for his conservative and religious attitudes, is expected to face no trouble from the body should he be given the nod.

But the matter is not likely to be publicly broached before Bin Abdul Aziz, who died in New York Saturday, is buried at the sprawling Al Oud cemetery on Tuesday evening.

The Janaza - funerary - prayers for the crown prince, who was known as Sultan Al Khair, will be held at Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh after the Asr prayers. Prominent world leaders and Arab heads of state are expected to attend the ceremony.

Join our official WhatsApp group