The Allegiance Council.
On Oct. 27, King Abdullah notified the AC of his decision to appoint Nayef as CP. That occurred at the royal court, where he met the head and members of the AC before the appointment was announced.
Under the rules set in 2006, the AC should vote to approve a king's nominated CP. The AC has a representative of each line of the family descended from Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud, the kingdom's founder.
As well as his surviving sons, the AC includes his grand-sons representing kings and princes who have died or are not well enough to participate. The AC must be headed by the eldest son of the founder beside the king.
Prince Mish'al, born in 1926, was in 2006 appointed by the king as AC chairman. Mish'al until 1962 served as defence minister. But he has since run his own private business.
A CP must be appointed within 30 days of a new king ascending the throne. The king nominates one, two or three CP candidates and the AC votes to approve his choice or select one of his nominees. On Oct. 27, King Abdullah only named Nayef.
If the AC finds none of his candidates suitable, it can name its own from the sons or grand-sons of ibn Saud. But after Salman as CP, the AC will have the say on succession instead of the king. Here is what should happen after Salman has become king:
If the king falls sick, the AC can assign a medical committee to declare him unfit to rule and transfer power temporarily to the CP. After King Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995, Abdullah's ability to rule as CP was fettered medically.
If a second medical report determines the king is unable to rule, the AC can put the CP in his place. If both fall ill, the AC can set up a transitional authority of five princes to rule until one of the top men recovers. If a medical report determines they will not recover, the AC must elect a new king within a week from the sons or grand-sons of the founder.
Five half-brothers have become kings and around 20 are still alive, many aged over 80. The succession from Fahd to Abdullah on Aug. 1, 2005, was smooth. Saudi Arabia's second king, Saud, was deposed in 1964 by his family when he was deemed incompetent after a crisis with his half-brother Faisal. King Faisal on March 25, 1975, was shot dead by a nephew (also named Faisal) who was then declared officially as insane.
Prince Salman, a former emir (governor) of the vast Riyadh Province, succeeded CP Sultan, who had been defence and aviation minister since 1962. Salman on Nov. 5 was made a member of the National Security Council (NSC), of which Nayef is deputy head.
The king's Nov. 5 decree split the Defence Ministry from the kingdom's General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), which owns Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia).
Prince Fahd ibn Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Saud was made president of GACA and chairman of its board of directors, which is to over-see the proposed privatisation of Saudia, and he must report directly to the king.
Prince Salman, who was Riyadh emir for almost five decades, is thus the third most powerful member of the royal family. But King Abdullah chose not to name a 2nd deputy PM, a post held by Nayef since 2009 and seen as equal to deputy CP. Prominent Saudi analyst Hussein al-Shobokshi says: "There is no necessity to have that post, but it is everybody's guess that Prince Salman is next in line after Nayef".
Prince Salman is known as "the diplomat of the royal family". He is a very generous man and exceptionally well-informed of what is going on anywhere in the world.
King Abdullah made Prince Khaled ibn Sultan deputy defence minister. Until then, Prince Khaled used to be an assistant to the defence minister and the eldest son of the late CP. In the new position, Prince Khaled succeeded Abdul-Rahman ibn Abdul-Aziz, who on Nov. 5 was relieved of his post as deputy defence and aviation minister.
The post of Riyadh emir is one of the most important in the country and was previously held by both Sultan and Nayef, before it was awarded to Salman in 1962. King Abdullah on Nov. 5 appointed Prince Sattam ibn Abdul-Aziz as emir of Riyadh. Until then, Prince Sattam used to be deputy emir of Riyadh with the rank of minister.
Prince Muhammad ibn Sa'd ibn Abdul-Aziz was made deputy emir of Riyadh with a rank of minister.
As chairman of the NSC and PM, King Abdullah is the top security decision maker.