CAIRO (AP) — Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday appointed a prime minister for the first time since the 1989 coup that brought him to power, choosing a close confidante who could potentially succeed him if he fulfills a vow to not seek re-election in 2020.
Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh, an army general widely known as "al-Bashir's shadow," was quoted by the state news agency SUNA as saying that the new Cabinet will be representative of various political forces.
Saleh has previously held several posts, including vice president and defense and interior minister, and has headed different security agencies. The post of prime minister was created by constitutional amendments last year.
Al-Bashir said in August that he would not seek re-election after his latest five-year term ends in 2020, but he had made a similar promise before ultimately running in 2015, in a low-turnout vote in which he faced no serious contenders.
Al-Bashir could potentially hand power to Saleh in three years, knowing that the close ally would likely preserve his political immunity within Sudan and shield him from demands that he stand trial at the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide stemming from the conflict in Darfur. However, al-Bashir has also sidelined close allies in the past in order to monopolize power.
The 73-year-old al-Bashir underwent heart surgery earlier this year, but state media have said he is in good health, and distributed photos taken shortly after the procedure.
Sudan has been grappling with an economic crisis since South Sudan, which contained three quarters of its oil production, seceded in 2011. Austerity measures led to large demonstrations in 2013, in which dozens of protesters were killed in clashes with security forces. The government is also battling rebels in different parts of the country.