In a major power shake-up, Saudi King Salman relieved now-former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef of his post and replaced him by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The succession is an exception considering the crown in the Saudi royal family moves down a line of brothers born to the kingdom's founder King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, who died in 1953.
This would be the first time a next-in-line Saudi king won’t be a direct descendant of Ibn Saud since Mohammed bin Salman is the son of the current king.
However, the appointment of the 32-year-old crown prince was not entirely surprising since he had been amassing more political control over the past two years.
Not only is Mohammed Bin Salman the crown prince now, he is also the world’s youngest defense minister in the world and is also the kingdom's deputy prime minister. He also oversees the state oil company.
Mohammed Bin Salman has also spearheaded the groundbreaking reforms Saudi Arabia has witnessed recently.
He is the one who created Vision 2030 — a blueprint to move the Saudi economy less dependent and, eventually, away from oil. The plan also includes increasing female participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent — a number that would lower the rate of unemployment from 11.6 percent to 7 percent.
Mohammed Bin Salman obtained a law degree from King Saud University. In 2009, he entered politics serving as a special advisor to his father, who was at the time the governor of Riyadh Province. Even while entering politics, Mohammed Bin Salman eclipsed three older half-brothers from King Salman’s first wife. The crown prince is the eldest son from the king’s third and most recent wife.
Besides his leading role in Vision 2030, Mohammed Bin Salman, as defense minister, also led Saudi Arabia into a major war in Yemen, which has led to devastation and massive loss of civilian life.
While Mohammed Bin Salman’s new role signifies the shifting of reins of power into the hands of a younger generation, it remains to be seen if it would bring about real change in core policies.
For instance, while he advocates for more women in the workforce, just like his predecessors, he isn’t keen on letting them drive.
The power shift may be significant, but it could also just be cosmetic.