The new 79-year-old king of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz announced a total reshuffle of the government only a week after his accession to the throne, which drew the attention of numerous media outlets all across the region.
A total of a hundred decrees issued by the new leader caught most of the Saudis by complete surprise, since they grew accustomed to the slow transitions of power from one monarch to another that could take weeks or even months.
As many as eleven new ministers were introduced to the government. Additionally, Salman bin Abdulaziz appointed a new Chief of Intelligence and National Security Council, along with replacing the governors of Mecca and Riyadh. The next step was the disband of a number of commissions and departments, while creating two new committees for security affairs and economy and development.
At the same time four ministries remained virtually untouched: interior and foreign affairs, finance and oil. Experts believe that these changes some “fresh blood” to the executive branch of Saudi government.
But the changes didn’t stop there, since the new monarch issued a decree to allocate 30 billion dollars on the development of housing, culture, social services, etc. He has also ordered to pay a generous a two-month salary allowance to civil servants, pensioners, and students.
A particular attention is being paid to the new committee for policy and security, since it is composed of a number of influential figures, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the chief of the National Guard, religious leaders, the head of intelligence, etc. It is believed that the committee will become an important link that would facilitate the preparation of important decisions of political and economic nature.
A particularly interesting fact about this new body is that will be headed by the Second Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Muhammad bin Nayef. A 55-year-old politician has recently been named the Deputy Crown Prince by the new monarch. He became the first grandson of Ibn Saud to be named a possible successor to throne. Ibn Saud, that died in 1953, had a total of 37 sons that were born from different wives. According to the system of succession of throne in the KSA, the title of the monarch passes from an elder brother to the younger one. This has become the main reason for the throne to be occupied by aging kings. Now one of the 250 grandsons of the original king can actually hope to become a king one day.
According to analysts, there is no evidence that the reshuffle will benefit a certain faction in the government more that any other. Most of the new top figure belong are in their fifties and they all share a considerable experience in the private sector.
It is difficult to predict how all the above stated changes will affect the various aspects of internal and external policy of the state – a theocratic monarchy, the cradle of international Islam, and the largest oil producer in the world.
It’s important to note that the recently deceased King Abdullah carried out a cautious modernization of the country, while he was forced to reckon with the influence of the traditional values on his policies while paying heed to the conservative religious establishment. Will the trend persist? Only time can tell.
The sitting king Salman bin Abdulaziz is the first Saudi monarch who has opened an account on Twitter where he is going to explain his decisions to Saudi people.
Yuri Zinin, Senior Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.