The strong Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, has been named prime minister, a position usually held by the king.
The 86-year-old King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s 37-year-old son is already regarded as the de facto ruler of the Gulf state.
His promotion from deputy prime minister and defense minister was announced by royal order, which cited a Basic Law exception.
According to a government official, the action was consistent with the king’s prior allocation of responsibility to him.
The official stated that the crown prince’s new position as prime minister “is within the context of the crown prince already supervising the key executive bodies of the state daily.”
Mohammed bin Salman’s promotion “formalizes his actual role and eliminates previous protocol issues of seniority with other heads of government,” a Saudi analyst close to the royal court named Ali Shihabi tweeted. He continued, “He ranks now as a head of government de jure, not just de facto.”
The monarch, who has undergone surgery twice this year, will continue to preside over cabinet meetings.
Prince Khalid bin Salman, another of his sons, was appointed as the next defense minister by the proclamation. In the world’s largest oil exporter, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman continues to hold the important position of energy minister.
Before his father became king in 2015, Mohammed bin Salman was largely unknown outside of Saudi Arabia.
The conservative Gulf kingdom’s conservative leader has received praise for some of the social and economic reforms he oversaw, such as eliminating the prohibition on women driving and attempting to diversify the economy away from oil.
However, he has also come under fire for continuing a conflict in Yemen that has resulted in a humanitarian crisis and for cracking down on dissent, with harsh prison terms being given out even for critical social media remarks.
After the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal opponent of the prince’s policies, was murdered by Saudi operatives inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, the prince’s reputation abroad took a huge hit. Despite his denials, US intelligence agencies concluded that he had given the go-ahead for a plan to kidnap or kill Khashoggi.
The prince has recently been re-embraced by Western leaders as a result of the rise in global oil prices brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. US President Joe Biden visited the prince in Jeddah in July despite having previously vowed to make Saudi Arabia “the pariah that they are” over Khashoggi’s murder.