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Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi ruling system

The strength and endurance of any political regime is tested by its ability to govern during changes in posts and transfers of power. This took place on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia with the smooth transfer of the post of crown prince to Prince Mohammed bin Salman from Prince Mohammed bin Naif, who we saw congratulate his successor and wish him success in his new role.
It is evident to observers that Saudi Arabia is changing rapidly and dramatically. This requires its rulers and government to keep pace with what is expected of them. Such change should not occur at the expense of stability.
For this reason, the pledging of allegiance to Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince occurred within the framework of the political system and its traditions. Namely, the decision was made by the Kingdom with the royal family’s support, and various societal segments pledged allegiance.
The decision was announced on Wednesday, and everything resumed as normal — an uncommon situation in the Middle East, where change routinely experiences a phase of difficulty. For 80 years, the Saudi political system and government have remained stable and able to facilitate transitions under the leadership of the king, who enjoys utmost loyalty.
Such transitions have happened seamlessly in Saudi Arabia — five crown princes in seven years — in line with the same rules and royal traditions. The appointment of Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince is a new development in light of his age and experience in modern governance. He provides a level of vitality needed by Saudi Arabia to advance its modernization projects launched under his direct supervision.

The Kingdom’s stability is essential for that of the entire region. As such, Saudi stability is in the interest of the region’s countries, including those that may not be aligned with Saudi policies. Stability, like chaos, is contagious and can spread easily.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed


Several studies and publications have been written since the 1970s that have highlighted the Kingdom’s ability to manage change, resources, continuity and modernization. Those familiar with the nature of royal political systems, particularly Saudi Arabia’s, are aware that the most important characteristic is the Kingdom’s ability to adapt. The king wants to enhance the role of youths so they are in harmony with society.
Saudi Arabia’s young population — 60 percent is below the age of 30 — means the government is expected to act on their needs. As such, modernization projects are mainly targeting youths. The government has inherited a difficult legacy where development projects and management of affairs are based primarily on oil revenues. Continuing to rely on such revenues is a risk that may impact future generations.
The alternative is to develop the state’s administrative capacity and redefine its tasks. This is the underlying concept of modernization led by Prince Mohammed. His new appointment puts an end to frequent questions about the royal family, the position of the crown prince and the state’s political future, in turn cementing the stability of this crucial country in a challenged region.
We cannot forget or neglect the era of former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, who developed Saudi security institutions and improved their work to subsequently win the war on terror after the 2003 attacks.
The Kingdom’s stability is essential for that of the entire region. As such, Saudi stability is in the interest of the region’s countries, including those that may not be aligned with Saudi policies. Stability, like chaos, is contagious and can spread easily.

— Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article was originally published.