Saudi Arabia

King Died, Succession Safe, but Future up in the air

King Died, Succession Safe, but Future up in the air

Few believe inside or out that a nation in which a single family sits in power and gilded splendour while many of its people languish in voteless poverty is sustainable in the long run.
King Abdullah, who sat on the throne for 20 years, faced challenges as he tried to modernise the kingdom, Daily Telegraph reports.
The confirmation immediately following the announcement of the death of King Abdullah that Crown Prince Salman was to succeed him settled one question in the minds of many in the Middle East.
There had been mutterings that the succession was not secure, and that on the death of King Abdullah, who had managed one of the world’s most perplexing countries for two decades, anything could happen.
The new King Salman then went one step further: he confirmed Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin as his own Crown Prince and heir.
These statements may have the flavour of a Ruritanian kingdom of another era. That is only fitting, perhaps, for a country which self-consciously retains not only an absolute monarchy but many of trappings of the tribal, religious and traditionalist attitudes of its founders.
But they are also vital for a world that relies both pragmatically on Saudi oil and politically on the influence of Saudi Arabia on the followers of Islam, whose holiest places it controls.
As Crown Prince, Salman, though from a grouping of princes seen as more politically conservative than King Abdullah, will have signed off on recent reforms and other political decisions.
Prince Muqrin is seen as the closest to King Abdullah of all the surviving royal brothers who control Saudi politics. At a relatively youthful 69, he will presumably have some years left to him both as Crown Prince and then King to ensure that his mentor’s legacy of gradual – very gradual – reform is honoured and even expanded upon.
Those questions are answered for now: many more mutterings remain.
Despite its apparently monolithic politics, debate about Saudi Arabia’s future is more widespread than it appears.
As with everywhere else in the world, globalisation and social media have revealed and encouraged a greater diversity of views and lifestyles in the Kingdom than those outsiders it held at bay for so long – most of the rest of the world – ever realised.
One curious but telling statistic is that the country now has the highest proportion of Twitter users of any in the world. Their tweets reveal an extraordinary and unpredictable melange of hardline Islamists, traditionalist monarchists, liberals, feminists, and many others intent, really, on just having a good time.
With no experience of democracy – or apparent intent to introduce any – it remains unclear how the monarchy plans to channel all these different views.
King Abdullah may have bought time by reversing his previous greater openness and locking up notable dissidents in the light of the Arab Spring, and stepping up beheadings and floggings more generally “pour encourager les autres”.
Its oil and foreign currency reserves give it economic breathing space, and its alliance with the West diplomatic breathing space, to come up with some new ideas.
But few believe inside or out that a nation in which a single family sits in power and gilded splendour while many of its people languish in voteless poverty is sustainable in the long run.
King Salman and Crown Prince Muqrin, the latter the youngest son of Saudi Arabia’s founder King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud and therefore the last who will be king, have some thinking to do before the next generation of the family follows in their line.

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