However, Nayef remained hugely influential and enjoyed a lot of support among the powerful clerical establishment. He oversaw the feared religious police and developed a security apparatus that contributed to the failure of militant Islamic groups such as al-Qaeda to capitalize on early successes in Saudi Arabia after the 2001 war in Afghanistan.
"He supervised the security affairs of the state for more than 30 years. He scored a lot of successes there. Especially in fighting al-Qaeda," said Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi political analyst.
Nayef was criticized for imprisoning human rights activists and political campaigners.
The Islamic kingdom largely escaped the instability of last year's Arab uprisings despite a repressive political system. Signs of unrest among the Shia Muslim minority were quickly stifled.
As revolts rocked the kingdom's neighbors, King Abdullah ordered a package of pay rises, subsidies, housing grants and job creation schemes. Nevertheless, social and economic problems remain, including finding jobs for many young people who often lack good quality education.
Abdullah, who has pushed planners to prepare for a time when the state can no longer rely solely on oil for revenue, enjoys a degree of popularity that few senior Saudi royals can match.
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Guardian Jason Burke in context here: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/16/saudi-arabia-prince-nayef-dies