Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was elevated to crown prince on Wednesday, replacing his cousin, a move that confirms the 31-year-old as next ruler of the oil-rich kingdom.
According to a royal decree, Mohammed bin Nayef, who has been crown prince until now, has been relieved of all positions, Reuters reports.
The decision by King Salman to promote his son and consolidate his power was endorsed by 31 out of 34 members of the Allegiance Council, made up of senior members of the ruling Al Saud family.
Observers view the decision as aimed at setting the line of succession clearly to avoid a power struggle between the king’s son and his nephew.
The change will empower Mohammed bin Salman to move faster with his plan to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil, which includes the partial privatization of state oil company Aramco.
A senior Saudi official was quoted as saying that the decision was taken due to what he called special circumstances presented to the members of the Allegiance Council.
According to the official, Mohammed bin Nayef supported the decision in a letter sent to the king.
The announcement follows two-and-a-half years of already major changes in Saudi Arabia, which stunned allies in 2015 by launching an air war in Yemen, cutting back on lavish subsidies and proposing in 2016 the partial privatization of state oil company Aramco, Reuters noted.
Last year Mohammed bin Salman announced sweeping changes aimed at ending the kingdom’s reliance to oil, part of his campaign to tackle systemic challenges that the country has previously failed to address.
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