Nayef will assume the throne when King Abdullah, 87 and recovering from a third operation for back problems, dies.
It is believed that Nayef’s leadership would not affect the country’s close relationship with the United States. But many commentators on Arab affairs are upset with the decision, pointing out that Nayef has blocked a number of reforms and encouraged crackdowns on political dissidents.
In 2009, Nayef said he saw no need for women to vote or participate in politics. He has also repeatedly supported the “religious police apparatus” that enforces shops and restaurants closing for prayer and that makes sure women and men don’t mix.
Last month, King Abdullah announced that Saudi women gained the right to vote and run as candidates in local elections in 2015. In 2009, Abdullah opened a coed university where both genders can mix.
The AP reports that it is unlikely Nayef would cancel Abdullah’s edicts, but would possibly put on hold any further changes.