Is Saudi King Salman planning power handover to son Mohammed?

Alwaght– Ailing Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz reportedly plans to abdicate and handover power to his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the next few days.

Rai al-Youm, an Arab world digital news and opinion website, reported on Wednesday that the king can announce the decision within “the next two nights.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Saudi-owned television news channel Al-Arabiya had announced the news in a Twitter message, but it retracted the post hours later.

Sources say the regime in Riyadh is testing the waters and gauge public reaction regarding the impending shift in power.

Surveillance of royal figures

According to royal sources, King Salman was due to step down over his health issues and that Crown Prince bin Salman has ordered the kingdom’s security officials to increase surveillance of royal figures to prevent any coup.

The expected development marks a change in the order of succession in Saudi Arabia from lateral lines of elderly brothers to a vertical order under which the king hands power to his most eligible son.

Speculations of King Salman’s possible abdication surfaced in late June, when the monarch deposed his nephew, then deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef as the heir to the throne and offered the position to Moahammed bin Salman.

In early September, the website of Lebanon’s al-Manar channel reported that the 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman had formed a team of aides to prepare the kingdom for celebrating his succession to power as the new king.

Purge of rivals

Since replacing his cousin bin Nayef in June, bin Salman has embarked on a campaign to consolidate power, taking on rivals within the royal family.

Late Saturday, bin Salman sent shockwaves through the kingdom when he fired senior ministers and had dozens of the country’s richest men, including prominent princes detained, ostensibly on the grounds of fighting corruption. The arrests included his cousin and one of the world’s richest men, al-Waleed bin Talal.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday voiced serious concern over the recent arrests in Saudi Arabia.

Suspicious helicopter crash

Amidst the purge, a helicopter carrying several Saudi officials, including a high-ranking prince, has crashed in the kingdom’s southwest near the border with Yemen.

Prince Mansour bin Muqrin Al Saud, deputy governor of Asir province, was on a tour of local projects west of the city of Abha when the crash happened on Sunday evening. The son of former Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, Prince Mansour bin Muqrin was appointed deputy governor of Asir province, which borders Yemen, earlier this year. Speculation is rife the Muqrin did not die in a ‘normal’ accident and that the he was assassinated as part of Bin Salman’s bid to consolidate his power.

US Involvement

Saturday’s mass arrests, which came just days after White House adviser Jared Kushner visited Saudi Arabia thus pointing to US President Donald’s Trump deep involvement in the events in Riyadh.

Shortly after news of the mass arrests broke, President Donald Trump called King Salman and praised him and the crown prince for their “drive to modernize the kingdom,” but made no mention of the arrests. This come as no surprise following reports of that bin Salman personally bribe Trump with $1bn during the US president’s visit to Riyadh in May.

The events of the past week marked a significant break with the traditional methods of decision making within the ruling Al Saud clan and this could herald the gradual fall of the dynasty.