- Prince Mohammed was already in charge of presidential meetings and dignitary receptions, with the king making few public appearances.
- Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman abides over the reins from his old father and becomes Saudi Arabia’s uncrowned king, from greeting foreign leaders to chairing regional summits.
With growing concerns about King Salman’s health, Prince Mohammed, 36, is in charge of presidential meetings and dignitary receptions, with the king making few public appearances.
While Prince Mohammed has been regarded as the de facto ruler since his inauguration as successor to the throne in June 2017. His growing prominence was on display when he met with French President Emmanuel Macron in early December and led the Gulf Cooperation Council summit on Tuesday.
King Salman, who usually opens the annual meeting with warm embraces and friendly handshakes, did not.
“The idea that a crown prince is the de facto ruler of the country, meeting with foreign presidents and presiding over summits, only happened before when Saudi kings were not in good health,” AFP’s Yasmine Farouk reported.
“What is fresh is that there is now national and media acceptance of a parallel, even more, important role for the crown prince even when King Salman performs all of his duties.”
King Salman has been residing in Neom, a futuristic development on the Red Sea, since the outbreak of Covid-19. The crown prince, also known as MBS, has opened Saudi Arabia to tourists and foreign investment to diversify the world’s largest oil exporter’s economy away from crude.
He has presided over significant social changes, such as allowing women to drive and work in the public sector, allowing citizens to benefit from the additional income and recreational opportunities across the country. These changes have ensued in tandem with a crackdown on dissent and free speech.
He appeared to be more open to Israel than his father, allowing its commercial aircraft to fly through Saudi airspace. According to Kristin Diwan of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, Prince Mohammed has benefited from the king’s longevity.
“His continued presence conveys traditional authority to cover MBS’s youth and unconventional actions while rarely impeding them,” she explained to AFP.