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Home Current Saudi News & Analysis Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: A Chance to Shine

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: A Chance to Shine

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Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: A Chance to Shine

CDHR Commentary: Propelling Mohammed Bin Salman into a position of assured succession to the Saudi throne has been in the making since his father, King Salman, inherited the throne in January 2015. Some people are questioning what prompted the King to advance his son up the line of succession now.

It is difficult to evaluate with certainty the chain of events that led to King Salman’s June 21, 2017 decree to promote his son to Crown Prince. Those intimately familiar with the mindset of the ruling princes, their primary objective and how they operate can safely speculate about what may have transpired within the high-walled royal court and interpret what went on during the Allegiance Commission and rituals of mandatory public support for the Crown Prince.

Given King Salman’s well-known convictions that Saudi Arabia is the ruling family’s private property, he wanted to make sure that the self-proclaimed royal ownership of the country remains intact before he disappears from the political landscape. In light of the unprecedented marginalization of many experienced and powerful princes that King Salman orchestrated when he inherited the throne in 2015, he fears that the royal family could be thrown into disarray after his reign. Therefore, in order to insure absolute continuity of his family’s rule, it’s safe to assume that King Salman decided to take action now, thus designating his trusted, but inexperienced, reckless, hawkish and risk taking favorite son Mohammed to be the next king while the father is still coherent to tutor him in how to be an iron-fisted ruler. Additionally, one can assume that King Salman wants to secure acceptance and support for Mohammed as king by the rest of the multitude of disgruntled royals. It is also probable that King Salman may step aside (abdicate) and let his son ascend to the throne and rule the country under the father’s supervision.

Regardless of the reasons that led to King Salman’s decision to put the fate of his domestically and regionally threatened kingdom in the hands of Crown Prince Mohammed, the future young king has an unprecedented opportunity to transform the archaic Saudi form of governing and the oppressive norms of Saudi society. Mohammed can apply his risk-taking actions internally to improve the well-being of the population as opposed to undertaking dangerous military adventures against the country’s neighbors. For instance, Mohammed ought to remove all barriers to women’s equality, remove many of the traditional social taboos, cut treasury-draining allowances to all royals, curtail clerics’ role in shaping public policy, institutionalize inclusive standards for accountability and transparency and transform the educational system to teach non-sectarian, tolerant and scientific subjects and values.

However, in order for Crown Prince Mohammed to institute such daunting reforms, he would need not only support from powerful hostile royals, but from a skeptical public. Since his rise to power from almost total obscurity, he has created more hardships than benefits for the population. He has cut public salaries, initiated new and increased existing taxes, cut some of the state’s subsided social programs and re-enforced political repression.

Given his age and the bloated expectations of the country’s young population, Crown Prince Mohammed needs to work to restore public trust. He ought to form a representative council of his royal and non-royal male and female peers to draft and debate openly comprehensive reform plans to modernize the country’s political, social, religious and economic institutions. By his own admission, Prince Mohammed predicted that the burden of the reforms must be equally distributed across the board (including royals), without which the country could be plunged into chaotic upheaval.

It remains to be seen whether Prince Mohammed will use his power when he ascends to the throne to improve the people’s lives or continue his forefathers’ practices of squandering public wealth, repressive rule, social inequality, religious intolerance and reliance on procured lobbyists and external powers’ protection to prolong the unsustainable status quo.

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