23 January 2015

Who is King Salman?

The King is Dead. Long live the King!

Or so the saying goes. King Abdullah of Saudi passed away in the early hours of the morning, and was immediately succeeded by his brother, Salman Bin Abdulaziz.

What this means for a region in the middle of uncertainty is not immediately clear. The threat of ISIS throbs against the Saudi borders, while the low price of oil has promised a shock to the country's economy for the coming period. Add to that regional tensions following the "Arab Spring", as well as Saudi's own internal tensions, and you've got a ticking time bomb.

Let's take a look at the new monarch, King Salman, and who he is:

- Born in 1935
- Governor of the Riyadh Province from 1963-2011
- Saudi Minister of Defence since 2011
- Appointed as Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister in 2012

Headed the Al-Saud Family Council, and is considered to have a conciliatory and diplomatic nature, being actively involved in mediating many internal family disputes.

Strong advocate for philanthropy in poor Muslim countries such as Somalia, Bangladesh, Sudan, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.

He is regarded as intelligent and hard-working, honest and law-abiding (his governance of the Riyadh Province was reportedly corruption-free).

Very involved in media, with his family owning Asharq Al-Awsat and Al Eqtisadiah newspapers, as well as a percentage of the Saudi Research & Marketing Group (which publishes Arab News and others), as well as having connections to liberal e-newspaper Elaph and strong alliances with many journalists and TV-News directors in the region.

In terms of views on reform, King Salman had previously said that reforms, for social reasons and not religious reasons, cannot be imposed by the Saudi Government as there will be negative reactions, and the pace and extent of reforms depends on social and cultural factors.

He is considered to take more of a diplomatic approach to opposition figures as compared to other Saudi royals, but is not necessarily a political reformer. He is also considered to be, as King Abdullah before him, more focused on economic improvement of the country rather than political change.

With all that being said, how the new King handles the country for the next coming years will be a very significant factor in the development of the immediate region, and will have repercussions regionally and globally. Long live the King!