Institutionalising Hereditary Succession in Saudi Arabia’s Political Governance System: The Allegiance Commission

On December 10, 2007, thirty-five sons and grandsons of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Faisal Al Saud, officially were appointed by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz members in The Allegiance (Bay’a) Commission. The formation of The Allegiance Commission was the culmination of a political process that began in the mid-1990s, when hereditary succession emerged as a central issue in the future of the Kingdom’s governance. Saudi Arabia’s internal political stability is vital to the political and economic stability of the Middle Eastern region, not to mention, of central importance to a multitude of global interests. As such, governance and succession in Saudi Arabia has been the subject of open academic debate, as well as widespread but discreet speculation within the local, regional, and international community. Since the Kingdom’s unification in 1932, the royal family has been careful to establish rules for hereditary succession of power. However, until recently, succession was dictated by traditional customs, rather than mandated laws. In 1992, King Fahd passed the first in a series of official decrees, which were designed to create a legal basis for succession of power within the royal family. The final law in the series, known as the “The Allegiance Commission Law,” was passed by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz on October 20, 2006, and established a legal framework through which the ruling family would appoint its successors. A relevant set of bylaws was passed in October of 2007, immediately followed by the formation of The Allegiance Commission in December. The establishment of the Allegiance Commission indicates that the Saudi royal family has begun to address complicated issues in heredity and governance, as the House of Saud prepares to pass political power from the founder’s sons to his grandsons.