Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah named Prince Khaled bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz as the next governor of Riyadh, handing one of the kingdom’s most important regional postings to the second generation of royals.
It’s at least the fourth time since July that King Abdullah, who turns 90 this year, handed a key posting to younger royals. The generational shift comes as the king seeks to keep Saudi Arabia free from the unrest that swept the Arab world over the past two years, leading to civil war in Syria and protests in Saudi neighbor Bahrain. He’s also fighting high unemployment in the world’s biggest oil exporter, and a threat from al-Qaeda.
“This is all part of the king’s push to bring up princes from the younger generation, and do so in a balanced way,” said Sam Wilkin, a Dubai-based analyst at Control Risks Group.
Saudi Arabia has had six monarchs since it was established in 1932. The kingdom’s ruler must be a son or grandson of its founder King Abdulaziz Al Saud, who died in 1953, according to the 1992 Basic Law of Government.
The Riyadh province, in the center of Saudi Arabia and home to its capital, is one of the most powerful in the kingdom and was traditionally a staging ground for other promotions. Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, a former governor of Riyadh, was named crown prince in June, putting him next in line to become king. Prince Khaled was the Commander of the Saudi Royal Land Forces and is a graduate of the U.K.’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
“It’s a pretty important position, arguably the most important governorship in Saudi Arabia, along with the Eastern Province,” Wilkin said. “He’ll be running a capital city that’s economically very important.”
King Abdullah’s appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in November as interior minister brought into focus the younger generation of Saudi royalty as he lines up his likely successors.
Prince Mohammed, born in 1959, replaced Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, 17 years his senior, who held the post for less than five months. Prince Mohammed’s late father, Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, served as interior minister for three decades before his appointment as heir apparent until his death in June. That was the first time the job has passed to one of the younger generation of royals.
In July, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former ambassador to the U.S., replaced his uncle Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz as intelligence chief. King Abdullah this month set a path for political succession in the largest Arab economy by appointing Muqrin as second deputy prime minister.
The benchmark Saudi stock index was closed for the weekend in Saudi Arabia. It climbed 0.1 percent to 7,062.98 at yesterday’s close.