After Sultan Qaboos dies, first Omani transition in 50 years

Oman is an absolute monarchy. The sultan is prime minister, supreme commander of the armed forces and police as well as minister of defence, foreign affairs and finance.
Sunday 12/01/2020
A 2010 file picture shows Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said saluting at the start of a military parade at a stadium in Muscat. 		      (AFP)
A 2010 file picture shows Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said saluting at the start of a military parade at a stadium in Muscat. (AFP)

LONDON - The death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the region’s longest-ruling monarch, at the age of 79, ushered in the first Omani leadership transition in nearly 50 years.

Sultan Qaboos, who died January 10, was rumoured to have been suffering from cancer for several years and his health took a turn for the worse last year, sparking rumours of an imminent succession.

Ending years of speculation over who would succeed Qaboos, who was unmarried and had no heirs, the Omani government announced that Culture Minister Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, a cousin of the late sultan’s, would be the new sultan of the Gulf Arab country.

The Abadi sect of Islam prevents the formal appointment of a crown prince but the succession followed provisions of Oman’s constitution, which says a member of the ruling royal family is to be chosen as a new ruler within three days of the sultan’s death.

If the royal family council cannot reach a consensus-based on a sealed letter containing the late sultan’s choice as a successor, the sultanate’s top military officers, the head of the Supreme Court and the heads of the two chambers of Oman’s consultative council participate in a wider selection process from the royal family.

The choice of Sultan Haitham, 65, was on the recommendation of Sultan Qaboos. Oman state TV said the Omani Defence Council opened the envelope in which Sultan Qaboos had named his successor.

Sultan Qaboos rose to power July 23, 1970, following a bloodless coup. He was the eighth sultan in the Al Said family dynasty.

Oman is an absolute monarchy. The sultan is prime minister, supreme commander of the armed forces and police as well as minister of defence, foreign affairs and finance.

Qaboos led Oman since the age of 29 and helped steer the country through the political turmoil that came with the “Arab spring” protests in 2011, as well as economic uncertainties that resulted from fluctuating oil prices.

He oversaw the sultanate’s independent — and at times controversial — foreign policy, taking stances not always in alignment with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Oman kept closer ties with Iran than most of its neighbours. In 2018, Qaboos received Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Oman for a public visit. When the war in Yemen broke out in March 2015, Oman was the only GCC member not to actively join the Saudi-led alliance fighting the Iran-allied Houthis.

“Today we lost a historic and renaissance figure of high class with the death of Sultan Qaboos,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash wrote on Twitter.

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum in a Twitter post described Sultan Qaboos as the sultan of honour, affection and wisdom.

“Sultan Qaboos had such charismatic authority and became so synonymous with Oman as a modern nation-state that it will naturally be difficult for any successor to replicate that, at least at the beginning,” Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, of Rice University’s Baker Institute, told Reuters.

 

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