The strength of any political system is tested by virtue of its ability to arrange governance when positions are changed. This is what happened on Wednesday morning in Saudi Arabia when Prince Mohammed bin Salman replaced Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as Crown Prince.
Mohammed bin Nayef congratulated Mohammed bin Salman and wished him luck in his task, which he was smoothly assigned following the majority agreement.
Observers can see that Saudi Arabia is changing rapidly, and this calls on the governing administration to keep up with what’s expected from it. Change, however, must not be at the expense of stability. Pledging allegiance to Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince thus came within the framework of the political system and its traditions, i.e. the decision was made by the king, with the support of the royal family, and the pledge of allegiance by different sections of the society.
The decision was announced on Wednesday morning and everything went as normal. This is not common in the Middle East as change always goes through period of difficulties. The Saudi political system has been stable for 80 years and it is capable of making transitions under the leadership of the king who enjoys full loyalty.
We have seen transitions happen smoothly in Saudi Arabia as there have been five crown princes in seven years. All these transitions, whether in the case of death or general assignments, were carried out according to the same rules and royal traditions, unlike what may happen in several other regimes.
What distinguishes this choice and makes it a new development is that considering his age and experience in the modern government administration, he provides the vitality, which Saudi Arabia needs in its modernizing projects launched under his direct supervision.
Saudi Arabia’s stability is important for the stability of the entire region and it is in the interest of all countries in the region, including countries that may disagree with Saudi policies, to derive strength from itAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Continuity and modernization
Many researches and books have been written since the 1970s and have raised questions about Saudi Arabia’s ability to survive changes which time brings about, different generations and decrease of resources. This is in addition to the continuous challenge of how to balance between continuity and modernization.
Those familiar with the nature of royal systems and particularly of the Saudi royal system are aware that the most important characteristic is the latter’s ability to harmonize and adapt. The king wants to bring youth to the fore so they are in harmony with the society and serve it.
Saudi Arabia has a young population and as much as 60 percent of them are below the age of 30. They expect the government to act upon their needs and realize. As a result, modernizing projects are mostly directed toward the youth.
The government that inherited a difficult legacy, in which development projects and managing of affairs are mainly based on oil revenues, does not have lots of options. Oil revenues can be depended on for a certain period of time but continuing to depend on them is a dangerous bet and is tantamount to gambling with the future of new generations.
The alternative is to develop the state’s administrative capacity and reinterpreting its duties. This sums up the concept of modernization led by Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The new assignment also ends questions often made about the state, the family, the position of the Crown Prince and the political future. This strengthens stability in this important country in an otherwise disturbed region.
We cannot forget former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef’s phase as he developed Saudi security institutions and improved their work to eventually win the war on terror after the 2003 explosions. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has always earned respect for that.
Finally, Saudi Arabia’s stability is important for the stability of the entire region and it is in the interest of all countries in the region, including countries that may disagree with Saudi policies, to derive strength from it. Chaos is contagious and it can spread but the same goes for stability.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.