The rise of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been swift and had a dramatic impact on the kingdom
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has had a swift rise to the top of Saudi Arabia – and his influence on the kingdom has been dramatic, and controversial.
His allies in the West have hailed him as a reformer who is tackling corruption and ushering vital reforms including letting women learn to drive.
But he was hit by controversy when he ordered the arrest of over 200 of the country’s richest and most powerful figures – including members of his own family – in November.
The prisoners, who included princes and ministers as well as billionaire businessmen, were temporarily imprisoned in the opulent five-star Ritz Carlton hotel.
The Crown Prince’s defenders said the arrests were part of his laudable attempt to root out the deep-seated corruption which has plagued the country for years.
But others warned that the arrests looked like a purge of his potential rivals and shows his despotic tendencies.
Most of the prisoners have now been released from the hotel which came to be dubbed ‘the five star prison’.
At just 32, he wields incredible power and influence in the desert kingdom where he is heir to the throne.
Appointed defence minister by his father, King Salman, when he took over the House of Saud in 2015, the favoured son orchestrated the controversial military campaign in Yemen.
He was elevated to crown prince two years later when the monarch stripped his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, of the role in a palace shake-up.
Known as MBS, the prince now has a number of titles, including deputy prime minister; chair of the Supreme Economic Council and head of the Public Investment Fund.
He is also head of a council overseeing the state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s largest companies, which the government is trying to persuade to use London for its record-breaking flotation.
Prince Salman studied law at King Saud University Riyadh before working for the kingdom.
The crown prince has set himself up as a moderniser in the authoritarian state and is credited with pushing through proposals to lift the ban on women driving.
He has also announced plans for an huge entertainment complex in Riyadh as rules are relaxed on socialising and is viewed as far less cautious than other senior royals.
But human rights campaigners say the image of a reformer hides a disturbing reality.
Charity Reprieve said since his appointment in July 2017, 133 people had been executed compared with 67 in the previous eight months.
Amnesty International pointed out that while women will soon be able to drive in the kingdom, they will still need permission from men if they want to travel, be educated or get a job.