Oman’s Sultan Qaboos chooses a successor
London - Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman has issued a royal decree on March 3rd appointing his cousin Sayyid Asaad bin Tariq Al Said as deputy prime minister for international cooperation and the sultan’s special representative, an apparent step towards nominating a successor.
Along with Sayyid Asaad, the apparent successor to Sultan Qaboos, 77, the sayyid’s son, Sayyid Taimur bin Asaad bin Tariq Al Said is now seen as second in line of succession, Omani sources said. Sayyid Taimur is considered close to the sultan.
Sayyid Asaad, 63, is a career government official and the son of Tariq bin Taimur, Sultan Qaboos’s uncle, who was the sultanate’s first prime minister before the sultan took over the position himself. Sayyid Asaad has served as the sultan’s special representative since 2002.
The appointment as deputy prime minister places Sayyid Asaad at the top of the list of potential successors even though a distant cousin, Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said, serves as deputy premier for cabinet affairs.
Sayyid Taimur serves as chairman of the Scientific Research Council, a ceremonial post.
Sultan Qaboos’s royal decree said the decision was made “based on the public interest”. The sultan has rarely been seen in public since his return from a medical trip abroad last April.
Article 6 of the Omani constitution states that a member of the ruling royal family must choose a new ruler within three days of the sultan’s death. The choice is usually based on the recommendation of the monarch himself as the Abadi sect of Islam prevents the formal appointment of a crown prince.
If the royal family council cannot reach a consensus based on a sealed letter containing the late sultan’s choice as successor, then 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 with the royal family.
Oman is an absolute monarchy, with the sultan’s position of utmost importance. Sultan Qaboos serves as prime minister, supreme commander of the armed forces and police and minister of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Finance.
Sultan Qaboos, the eighth sultan in the Al Said family dynasty, came to power on July 23rd, 1970, following a bloodless coup. In recent years, he has led the country through regional turmoil of the “Arab spring” in 2011 as well as current economic uncertainties because of low oil prices.
The sultanate is known for its independent foreign policy, sometimes taking unilateral decisions that run counter to other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members. 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-backed Houthis, opting for a more intermediary diplomatic role in the conflict.
Sources told The Arab Weekly that Sultan Qaboos had wanted to give the family branch of Sayyid Asaad and Sayyid Taimur ample time to prepare to govern.