Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman becomes Prime Minister

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Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman becomes Prime Minister

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during a television interview.

Saudi Arabia's highly influential Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was given new powers on Tuesday by becoming prime minister of the oil kingdom, a position traditionally held by the king himself.

Mohammed bin Salman, who is the de facto ruler of the kingdom, has been named prime minister, said a decree by King Salman, his father, published by the official Spa news agency.

In Saudi Arabia, the King is Head of State and Chairman of the Council of Ministers.

His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be the Prime Minister, as an exception to the provision of Article (56) of the Basic Law on Governance and the relevant provisions contained in the Law of the Council of Ministers, wrote the SPA agency.

With this appointment, the one nicknamed MBS consolidates his power after a return to the forefront of the international scene of the Saudi kingdom diplomatically isolated for years because of the assassination in 2018 of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the consulate of his country in Istanbul.

Mohammed bin Salman was previously Deputy Prime Minister under his father, King Salman, as well as Minister of Defence.

He is replaced as defense minister by his younger brother, Khaled bin Salman, who was previously deputy defense minister, according to the same source.

The Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Energy were not affected by the government reshuffle, according to the royal decree.

The Prince Mohammed, who turned 37 last month, is in the front line to succeed his father as leader of the Arab world's largest economy.

He is expected to become by far the youngest of the Saudi dynasty to ascend to the throne following the death of his aged and debilitated father.

In recent years there have been growing rumors about the #x27;state of health of the 86-year-old king, who has been hospitalized twice this year, most recently in May, according to press reports.

Since his appointment as crown prince in 2017, MBS de facto leads this regional oil power.

He jostled a sluggish Saudi Arabia with sweeping reforms while brutally suppressing the opposition. But he remains an essential international interlocutor.

Before Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February, the Saudi kingdom – and the crown prince in particular – was seeking to overcome the diplomatic isolation imposed by most Western countries after the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi power.

After his election, US President Joe Biden even declassified a report concluding that MBS had validated this assassination, which the Saudi authorities have always denied.

But since the invasion Russia and soaring energy prices, Mr. Biden, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other Western leaders visited the kingdom, the ;one of the world's top oil exporters, in an attempt to convince Riyadh to pump in more crude.

The Saudi announcement further came after MBS mediated the Russian release and September 21 transfer to Saudi Arabia of ten prisoners of war, including five British and two Americans.

Appointing the Crown Prince as Prime Minister is an unusual decision, but not unprecedented. In the 1950s, Crown Prince Faisal became prime minister, which eventually led to a power struggle that culminated several years later in the abdication of then-King Saud.

This scenario is different because it is about formalizing a de facto situation, said Ali Shihabi, a Saudi analyst close to the government. It even took time […].

For Umar Karim, an expert on Saudi politics at the University of Birmingham, MBS has already passed the struggle phase for power and won it. What's happening now is more of a validation of his authority.

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