A young man with many ideas

The appointment of Mohammed bin Salman are crown prince ushers in a new generation

The decree was issued quietly after midnight, but its import is significant and far-reaching. Mohammed bin Salman, the son of the king of Saudi Arabia, will be the next monarch of the Gulf’s largest country, relieving his elder cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, of the position.

The change is enormously significant for a number of reasons. The first is the line of succession. Since the founder of the modern Saudi state King Abdelaziz died in 1953, the country has been ruled by one of his sons. When King Salman took power in 2015, it fell to him to appoint a crown prince from the next generation. He chose Mohammed bin Nayef, who has now been replaced by Mohammed bin Salman, who is also from the next generation of Saudi rulers.

Mohammed bin Salman is young, and that is one of his strengths. The majority of Saudi society are young: at least half the population is under 25 years old. Prince Mohammed is 31. Like many of the youth of the country – among whom he is very popular – he is dynamic and impatient for change. He is seen as someone who is willing to challenge the sometimes stultifying bureaucracy.

As the architect of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan, he is weaning the country off its dependence on oil, speaking publicly about changes that need to take place and focusing on the economy. All of these are extremely popular among Saudi youth.

It is also Prince Mohammed who has overseen a gradual opening up of entertainment options inside the kingdom. And he was widely thought to have been the driving force behind the reduction in powers of Saudi Arabia’s religious police last year – the Haia, as the force is known informally in the kingdom, are now no longer allowed to arrest people or demand their IDs. That particular change was widely celebrated on social media.

Saudi Arabian politics, for so long a matter of steady progression, has moved with astonishing rapidity in the past few years. Partly this is a result of personalities, but partly it is a response to external challenges.

The appointment of Mohammed bin Salman has not taken place in a vacuum. The drop in the price of oil, the Arab Spring and the war in Yemen have encouraged the kingdom to adapt. Few are better placed to lead Saudi Arabia through this tumultuous time Prince Mohammed. Long expected, this move will provide the certainty that Saudi Arabia needs at this moment.