Does Mohammed Tahir Ayala have the political clout to succeed President Omar al-Bashir in 2020?
That is the question in Khartoum after President al Bashir chose the 66-year old longtime operative of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and governor of the agriculture-rich Gezira State as his successor.
Even though the Sudan Constitution says the prime minister, who oversees the day-to-day running of the government, is supposed to succeed the president, Al Bashir still overlooked First Vice-President and Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh for Ayala, who has no military and intelligence background, which are considered essential for the job.
Mathias Muindi, an analyst with Control Risks, told The EastAfrican that Mr Ayala is from a generation of politicians who emerged after the 1989 coup and hence represent a compromise between those who are for generational change and those who want continuity within the NCP.
Mr Ayala, an economics graduate, is among the group of 1980s intellectuals seen as more neutral, especially by the youth who have been yearning for a generational change.
Khartoum-based journalist Mohammed Alameen told The EastAfrican that Mr Ayala is close to President al-Bashir and has enjoyed prominent appointments in the past few years. He was appointed director of the Sudan Seaports Corporation soon after the 1989 coup; became federal minister of roads and bridges.
He became the governor of the Red Sea State in 2005, where he stayed until 2015 when he was appointed the governor of Gezira State.
But Mr Ayala’s first reaction was to reaffirm his support for President Bashir’s re-lection in 2020. There have been calls within the NCP’s Sufi Order—an Islamic wing of the party—for a change of the Constitution to allow the president to contest again.