King Salman’s Latest Decree Reinforces One-Man Rule

King Salman’s Latest Decree Reinforces One-Man Rule

King Salman’s Latest Decree Reinforces One-Man Rule
King Salman’s Latest Decree Reinforces One-Man Rule

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has been named the kingdom’s prime minister in a cabinet reshuffle ordered by King Salman.

The royal decree states that “His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Crown Prince, shall be the Prime Minister; as an exception to the provision of Article (56) of the Basic Law of Governance, and the relevant provisions contained in the Law of the Cabinet.”

The royal decree also reaffirmed all the other senior ministers in their posts, including Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman.

Interior minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has also retained his position. Meanwhile, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz will remain as the minister of energy.

By appointing MBS as prime minister, a role previously held by the king, the 86-year-old monarch continues a slow but steady transfer of power in the kingdom.

International Reactions Sparked

London-based newspaper, The Guardian, said that “Mohammed bin Salman has been named prime minister of Saudi Arabia in a move that experts said would probably shield the crown prince from a potentially damaging lawsuit in the US in connection to his alleged role in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

The paper quoted Simon Henderson, director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at The Washington Institute, as saying that no change is expected in relations with the United States, though commentators have noted that as prime minister, MBS will now have sovereign immunity when travelling abroad.

Bloomberg considered the move as a gradual transfer of power in the world’s largest oil exporter, saying that the appointment formalizes Prince Mohammed as leader of the kingdom’s government.

For his part, Jon Alterman of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that “the appointment of Crown Prince Salman as prime minister means that he is unlikely to herald major policy changes.”

“This move encodes the status quo, where ministers steer their agendas and coordinate between them.” said Alterman. “It may also have an international aspect to making him officially head of government rather than a pending head of state.”

According to the paper, the crown prince, 37, already oversaw many of Saudi Arabia’s major portfolios, including oil, defense, economic policy and internal security — while he continues to tighten the grip over his opponents.

The Washington Post also warned that not since the reign of the country’s founder, Abdulaziz Al Saud, has so much power been concentrated in one man’s hands in Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman isn’t king, yet.

The US newspaper pointed out that under MBS’s rule, the former crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, along with the king’s own brother, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, were detained and accused of undermining the state.

Under the prince’s leadership, the paper continued, Saudi authorities have also cracked down on domestic dissent, imprisoning businessmen, religious clerics, activists, writers and scholars across the political spectrum.

The prince, who replaced his father as prime minister in late September, leapfrogged a generation of older uncles and cousins to become heir to the throne in one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies.

The AXIOS US website reported that the Saudi king’s announcement comes several days after a visit by three of Biden’s senior advisers to Jeddah for a meeting with the crown prince.

The advisers included Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East, Amos Hochstein, the special presidential coordinator for international energy security and infrastructure investment, and Tim Lenderking, special envoy for Yemen, according to a National Security Council spokesperson.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy also commented on the announcement, saying that the surprise announcement—which goes against both the kingdom’s Basic Law and its traditional arrangement of having the king serve as premier—makes the de facto political power that MBS has held for some time now effectively de jure.

The move might affect the prospects for Israeli-Saudi normalization. King Salman has been seen as a brake on that process, slowing most efforts to establish public relations with Jerusalem.

Previously, he may have been wary about visiting the United States for fear of facing potential legal action over the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Growing social media criticism

King Salman’s decree sparked a large-scale wave of criticism as it paves the way for the one-man rule in the Kingdom.

The US activist Asha Jadeja Motwani said on Twitter: Saudi Prince MBS now declares himself “Prime Minister” to get a seat at the table w the big boys – real elected leaders of the free world. Would this make Saudi Arabia & it’s heavily oppressed women a bit freer? Let’s hope so – even tho it’s all pretend for now.

Saudi Exile Twitter account said that MBS appointed himself prime minister, in violation of the provisions of the system of government, which say that the king is the prime minister! He took this step to obtain international immunity to protect himself from facing the justice!

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