The above-mentioned articles of the Allegiance Commission Law attest that the new legislation creates conditions under which a compromise has to be found in the process of selection of the most suitable nominee for the new Crown Prince. It removes the possibility of arbitrary decision-making on both side (the King’s and the Allegiance Commission’s) and helps to designate a candidate that would represent the interests of both sides, that is, of the whole family. Its major significance is that it is supposed to wisely balance both the King’s and the Commission’s powers (Al-Badi, 2008).
Another distinctive feature of the new law is that it grants the Allegiance Commission important powers in case of emergency. Article eleven provides that in case of the King’s incapacity to carry out his duties because of health problems, the Allegiance Committee will request a medical report to be prepared by a special committee on the seriousness of the King’s illness. If the medical committee concludes that the King’s health problems are temporary, the Allegiance Commission will certify this medical conclusion and transfer the King’s powers to the Crown Prince until the full recovery of the King.
When the King notifies the Allegiance Commission of his recovery, it will request another medical report on the state of the ruler’s health. If the medical report confirms the King’s capability to exercise his powers, the Allegiance Commission will issue an official confirmation of these findings and the King will resume his duties. But if the medical commission makes a conclusion that the King’s incapability to carry out his duties is permanent, then the Allegiance Commission will officially confirm this fact and pledge allegiance to the Crown Prince who will become the new King of Saudi Arabia (Al-Badi, 2008).
This article seems to prevent future confusions similar to the one that happened among “Page # 7” the royal family in 1995 when King Fahd became incapacitated as a result of a serious stroke. In that case, Abdullah, then the Crown Prince, took over the Kingdom and ruled as a regent for the next ten years but was forced to consult with a faction of powerful princes on crucial decisions (MacLeod, 2007). Article twelve of the law also foresees the cases when both the King and the Crown Prince fail to perform their duties and responsibilities for health reasons.
Under these circumstances, a medical report will be prepared on the state of health of them both and if their incapability to exercise their powers is temporary, a special five-member Transitional Ruling Council will temporarily manage the affairs of State until the recovery of either the King or the Crown Prince. Established by the Allegiance Commission, the Transitional Ruling Council has no right to make amendments to the basic laws of the Kingdom such as the Basic Law of Governance or the Allegiance Commission Law, nor can it change the composition of the Cabinet.
The Council’s main function is to oversee and protect the interests of the Kingdom, and see that the laws are carried out during the transitional period (Al-Badi, 2008). Article twelve also covers the cases when both the King and the Crown Prince are found to be permanently incapable of exercising their powers or when they both die simultaneously. Under such circumstances, the law stipulates, the Transitional Ruling Council will administer the affairs of State until the new King’s ascension to the throne.
Meanwhile, the Allegiance Commission will proceed to the selection of a suitable nominee from among the male children and grandchildren of King Abdul. The new King must be selected within seven days after the death of the previous King and Crown Prince or after the medical committee’s report on their permanent incapacity to carry out their duties was issued (Al-Badi, 2008). “Page # 8”
Another important feature of the new law is that it stipulates that the Allegiance Commission is permitted to take an emergency role exclusively for health-related reasons and only when the King and the Crown Prince are simultaneously incapacitated (Al-Badi, 2008). The Allegiance Commission’s operation and the General Secretariat According to the new law, the Allegiance Commission can hold its meetings only if they are approved by the King. In the event of the King’s death or incapacity, it is the Commission’s Chairman who calls the meetings.
All of its members must attend the Commission’s meetings except when they are granted an exemption by the Chairman. The Commission’s decisions are valid when they are approved by the majority of its members (Al-Badi, 2008). Article twenty-one of the law states that all the meetings held by the Allegiance Commission must be recorded including the time and place of the meetings, the names of the members and the chairman, the summaries of discussions, the voting process and its results, and the decisions made by the Commission. All the members present at the meeting and the chairman must sign the records to make them valid.
Decisions at the meetings of the Allegiance Commission are put to a secret ballot. The Allegiance Commission also has its budget adopted annually and approved by the King. Any of its expenditures are subject to special regulations and the King’s approval (Al-Badi, 2008). The Allegiance Commission’s mode of operation as governed by the new law makes the Commission a true democratic body whose function is to protect the political stability in the Kingdom during the transitional periods or in case of emergency and also to prevent any usurpation of power at the crucial moments.
The Allegiance Commission Law also introduces the position of the Commission’s Secretary General, grants him the rank of minister, and makes him in charge of the administrative and financial matters of the Allegiance Commission. Appointed by the King, “Page # 9” the Secretary General answers directly to the King and may have assistants (the General Secretariat) if the King approves them. The Secretary General’s main responsibilities include the supervision of the Allegiance Commission’s operation, recording the Commission’s documents that are pertinent to its activities, and keeping them confidential.
In other words, the Secretary General is a kind of a link between the King and the Allegiance Commission, oversees the Commission’s work and keeps the King informed of its activities (Al-Badi, 2008). Conclusion Saudi Arabia is not a democracy and the Allegiance Commission Law seeks not to make it such. As any other absolute monarchy, it excludes the governed from governance and does not envisage further democratization of the country. But the new law brings some democracy into the Saudi royal family.
One of the distinct aspects of the change is that it puts an end to the succession to the Saudi Arabian throne of King Abdul’s octogenarian sons and envisages the ascension to it of his grandsons (Al-Badi, 2008). As many experts and observers have pointed out for the last two or so decades, the rules of governance in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia existing before King Abdullah’s Allegiance Commission Law were irrelevant when it comes to addressing the problems of succession that future rulers might face.
The introduction of the Allegiance Commission Law is of great significance for the political stability in the Kingdom for several reasons. First and foremost, the Allegiance Commission Law is an attempt to solve the complicated problem of hereditary succession and governance in Saudi Arabia and establishes a clear legal mechanism of a smooth and peaceful transfer of power in Saudi Arabia when the House of Saud enters the stage of passing the throne from King Abdul’s sons to his grandsons. Secondly, governance under this law becomes institutionalized and the powers to be exercised
“Page # 10” by the ruler become reduced to a certain extent and depend on the decisions of the Allegiance Commission. What is a very crucial change, though, is that the new law removes the ruler’s authority to decide who from among the princes will accede to the throne after his death and delegates this authority to the Allegiance Commission (Al-Badi, 2008). Finally, this constitutional reform increases the degree of transparency and accountability of the ruling dynasty of Saudi Arabia (MacLeod, 2007).
The creation of an assisting constitutional body such as the Allegiance Commission is a necessary step to preserve the royal family’s unity and a system of a democratic selection of the Kingdom’s future monarchs under which the whole family is able to participate in this process through its representatives. Its another great achievement is that it found a legitimate solution (not an ideal one, perhaps, but definitively a legitimate one) as to how to smoothly transfer power from one generation of King Abdul’s heirs to the next.
Also, the Allegiance Commission Law makes it impossible for a King to make any amendments to it without finding a compromise with and gaining the approval of the Allegiance Commission preventing any possible seizures of power in the future (Al-Badi, 2008). Taking into account King Abdullah’s popularity in the Kingdom, he seems to have seized this unique opportunity to authoritatively introduce radical changes in the system of governance in Saudi Arabia and ensure the future political stability in the country.
As it was already mentioned above, the Allegiance Commission Law does not affect the present conditions but aims at resolving the problems that would definitely arise without such a regulation. So the law’s level of efficiency will be more accurately judged in the future after it takes effect (Al-Badi, 2008). If the Allegiance Commission does not fail to perform its duties and responsibilities as the new law stipulates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will definitely avoid destabilizing succession struggles which are currently a central problem of governance in several other Arab monarchies (Katz).
1. Al-Badi, A. (2008, February 20). Institutionalising Hereditary Succession in Saudi Arabia’s Political Governance System: The Allegiance Commission. Retrieved May 23, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www. arab-reform. net/spip. php? article1232 2. Katz, M. N. The Saudi Succession Solution. Retrieved May 23, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www. saudiinfocus. com/en/show_art_det. asp? artid=1319 3. Kumaraswamy, P. R. (2005, August 10). Facing the Issue of Succession in Saudi Arabia.
Retrieved May 23, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www. pinr. com/report. php? ac=view_report&report_id=344&language_id=1 4. MacLeod, S. (2007, October 17). The Next Saudi King. Time magazine. Retrieved May 23, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://time-blog. com/middle_east/2007/10/the_next_saudi_king_1. html? xid=rss-mideast 5. Metz, H. C. Saudi Arabia: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1992. Retrieved May 23, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://countrystudies. us/saudi-arabia/47. htm