Saudi Arabia has significantly reduced the powers of its absolute monarchy by quietly removing the king’s authority to choose his own successor.

This landmark constitutional reform, enacted by royal order last October but only disclosed this week, fundamentally changes the way the desert kingdom – which controls 25 per cent of the world’s oil – is governed.

Until now, the king alone has selected his successor, known as the crown prince, from among the sons and grandsons of King Abdul-Aziz, the founding leader of Saudi Arabia, better known as Ibn Saud.

In future, a committee consisting of senior members of the royal family, called the Bay’ah Council, will vote for the crown prince from three candidates named by the king.

The council is empowered to reject the king’s choice and can even impose a crown prince against the monarch’s will. It can also declare the king or crown prince incapable of ruling.

“What makes this change important is that, in addition to taking the final decision about who rules out of the king’s hands and institutionalising it, it brings stability to the succession process,” said Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador to London and Washington.

… Under the new system, Prince Turki himself, who was Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief before his ambassadorial appointments, is a credible candidate for crown prince.

Full article here.

While he was intelligence chief in the 1980s, Prince Turki reportedly met with Osama bin Laden several times, lending personal support to bin Laden’s war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. To be fair, however, we were supporting bin Laden back then, too. Prince Turki subsequently denounced bin Laden.