A political earthquake is rocking Saudi Arabia’s pillars of princ
Saudi Arabia’s political earthquake has shaken the foundations of the country’s power structure.
A system based on the division of power between the lineages of the sons of Abd al Aziz Ibn Saud has been replaced - at least temporarily - by one based on the lineage of King Salman and within it, of his young son Muhammad.
Other Gulf monarchies, including in Qatar and Oman, have witnessed intra-family power struggles that resulted in the replacement of the sovereign by his son. But none has ever witnessed what amounts to a coup d’etat against not only the king, but against the entire monarchical system within which he exercised his powers.
So Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s purge of his uncles and cousins is more akin to republican coups mounted in Egypt in 1952, Iraq in 1958, or Libya in 1969.
The two key questions to be asked are (i) can the crown prince consolidate his power, and (ii) what will be the long-term consequences of the political earthquake?
The effectiveness demonstrated thus far by King Salman and his son in grabbing all the country’s reins of power suggests real political skill. They undercut Prince Muhammad bin Nayef’s base in the Ministry of Interior, one he had inherited from his father, and then utilised that base to neutralise other princes.