Monday, 06 April 2020 | 18:50 WIB

The Crown Prince’s Bold Move

King Salman (riau)

JAKARTA, NETRALNEWS.COM - The policies of Muhammad Bin Salman have recently surprised many people. The arrest of 11 princes, including Waleed bin Talal, and some ministers and former ministers of the Kingdom of Arabia are certainly not the usual steps taken by leading royal family members in that country.

A lot of speculation and rumors are in circulation related to the formation of a sudden Corruption Eradication Commission and directly targeting influential people in the kingdom.

Is this purely an attempt to rid the kingdom of corrupt practices? The "brave" steps taken by the Crown Prince are certainly not independent, but are related to many events.

Earlier the security forces had made a mass arrest of critical groups of scholars, intellectuals, professionals and businessmen for questioning Saudi policy to fight in Yemen and an embargo on Qatar.

Their critical voices in social media are perceived as endangering the stability of the State. Shortly after the arrest of princes in an operation against corruption, the public was struck by the murder of Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, son of Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, in a plane crash on the Yemeni border (6/11) 2017.

Not long after that was reported also the death of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd bin Abdul Aziz after a shootout with security forces who tried to catch him. Within 24 hours, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has lost two influential princes.

On the Bankruptcy Threshold? The condition of Saudi economy that is not getting better due to declining oil prices has threatened the political stability and future of the kingdom.

Even predicted if there are no serious steps taken by the kingdom, then Saudi Arabia has the potential to experience bankruptcy. Since 2015 the Saudi has a budget deficit and continues in 2016 and 2017.

To tackle this economic problem the Saudis launched a very ambitious program called Saudi Vision 2030.

It is hoped that through this program the dependence of state revenues on the oil sector could be reduced by 50 percent, the increase of new jobs especially for women workers and the progress of socio-economic reforms.

It seems that this rescue program has not shown satisfactory results although in general the deficit trend is beginning to be reduced.

The Saudi involvement in the unending war in Yemen further increased the financial burden of the kingdom. Saudi miscalculation severed ties and embargoes against Qatar has lowered public confidence in the rulers. Moreover Saudi is currently applying for a loan of 10 billion US dollars to the IMF.

A policy that is perceived to gradually worsen the Saudi economy. Some research suggests that most of the African countries, for example, who are assisted by the IMF end up with more tragic conditions. While it is common knowledge that state finances are also used to finance the luxurious lifestyle of the Istana family.

Under these circumstances, Muhammad bin Salman, who will inherit the royal throne, attempted to take a "courageous" step to save the future of the kingdom and improve the image in the public eye. One of them is by launching corruption eradication operation under the pretext of increasing efficiency, transparency and accountability.

The impact of corruption eradication operations is expected to reap public appreciation and support. Public support was urgently needed by the Kingdom because in the not-too-distant future in order to raise the state's revenue from the non-oil sector, the Kingdom imposed a new tax on Saudi families of 100 riyals and also introduced value added tax.

In addition, the Saudi government began to reduce allowances for royal employees and would revoke the electricity subsidies and other basic needs that are perceived to have burdened the Kingdom's finances.

It is understandable that the subsidy removal program and the introduction of tax for the Saudi people will cause social unrest so that the image enhancement of the ruler needs to be increased through corruption eradication program.

Although the program is actually suspected as an effort to consolidate politics and get rid of princes who are not in line with Bin Salman's policies.

Political Consolidation Efforts to strengthen the Crown Prince's position need to be done so that his position is not disrupted and the succession of leadership can proceed smoothly. King Salman wanted to make sure when he released his power will soon be followed by the appointment of the Crown Prince as King.

Given there is a tendency in Saudi political culture that once the father dies then the child loses influence in the Imperial family environment. This political consolidation needs to be done to ensure that the very young Bin Salman can become the next king of Arabia smoothly.

Some attempts to bypass the influence of the Crown Prince's competitor, among others, can be seen in King's policy to remove Prince Mutib bin Abdullah from the position of the Minister of National Defense in relation to the issue of corruption.

Prince Mansour bin Muqrin's mysterious death in a plane crash will reduce the critical group within the Palace.

Mansour's father, Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz himself, had been appointed Crown Prince at the beginning of King Salman in power and replaced by Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz. Not long served as the crown prince, bin Nayef was later replaced by Muhammad bin Salman.

Presumably efforts to create a positive image through the movement of corruption eradication and political consolidation is a very bold step from the Crown Prince. Al-Waleed bin Talal himself was accused of money laundering and alleged to have initiated investment in Iran.

Although Al-Waleed said he would stop his plan after the Saudis declared Iran to be the main enemy of the Middle East countries, its relationship with Iran remains in dispute. The steps taken by the Crown Prince seem to have created a great gap for the reverse resistance of the princes.

If this is the case then it is certain that the political stability of the Saudi Kingdom will be disrupted and the path to power for Bin Salman will not be smooth. The courageous move has caused disappointment and hostility from members of the Istana family itself.

The last incident of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd's assassination in an arrest operation against those opposed to Bin Salman will also spark new problems. Abdul Aziz himself is a business partner of Saad Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister who just stepped down. Hariri resigned from his post shortly after meeting Bin Salman in Riyad.

It seems that the Saudis are not satisfied with Hariri, who has been Prime Minister of Lebanon since 2016 for leading a coalition government in which there is a representative from Hezbollah. The displeasure heightened as Hariri met with Ali-Akbar Velayati, foreign adviser Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader.

As a result, shortly after his visit to Saudi Arabia, Hariri also submitted his resignation as Prime Minister of Lebanon.

The question is whether the bold steps of Muhammad bin Salman in conquering his political opponents among the Imperial family will succeed? Whether Saudi involvement in the Yemen war, the embargo on Qatar and its readiness to fight with Lebanon would strengthen the position of the Crown Prince or vice versa.