People from time to time question the future of monarchies in the Middle East, and their ability to face the challenges posed by their turbulent surroundings.
They continue to ask these questions though it has became obvious that the region’s monarchies have proved to be the most stable and coherent governments, in contrast to the Arab republics, most of which have had a history of turmoil and unrest that has periodically deprived citizens of personal safety and security, among other basic necessities of life. Some would rush to claim that wealth is the reason for the stability of these monarchies, an argument that plays down other factors that have contributed to maintaining stability in the face of the political storms and fluctuations taking place in one of the world’s most volatile regions.
Without doubt, wealth plays a major role in stability, but it is not everything. Iraq is a rich country and owns perhaps more sources of wealth than several monarchies, even those of the Gulf. Libya is also a country with massive oil resources, which, had they been invested properly would have made the North African country among the richest, happiest, and most stable in the world. In reality, the current situation in these two countries is far from happy.
Morocco and Jordan are countries with limited resources but they are more stable than Yemen, Syria, Sudan or Lebanon. Is it still possible to consider wealth and oil resources the only explanation for the stability of the region’s monarchies? In fact, the monarchies of the region have sensed the importance of pursuing a policy based on approaching and communicating with citizens as a means to win their loyalty, while the Arab republics largely relied on so-called “revolutionary legitimacy,” or the hegemony of the single party as a basis for legitimacy, ignoring citizens and resorting to oppression as the only policy and means of communication.
Of course there are other factors involved in stability and many comparisons can be drawn. It would be useful to reflect on what has happened in Saudi Arabia over the past few days and the smoothness in which the succession of power took place. Many questions have been posed surrounding the future of its ruling family, particularly over the past few years. The arrangement of the ruling house of Saud has been the main preoccupation of decision making circles in many capitals, and a subject of discussion by concerned observers. Their aims and motives varied of course, but they all agreed on the importance of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s stability, on the domestic and international levels.
Saudi Arabia is not just an enormous source of oil, as some prefer to see it, it is the beating heart of the Muslim world and the location of Mecca. It is a country that has employed all of its influence and efforts to support world peace and stability and Arab and Muslim solidarity. Therefore, any event that takes place in it will have major repercussions on the region and the world.
The Kingdom bypassed all the predictions about its future when it surprised the world with the swiftness of its transfer of power. King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz passed away at 1:00 am local time on Friday, and people woke up to find King Salman had taken the throne, Prince Muqrin had been appointed Crown Prince, and Prince Mohammed Bin Naif appointed Deputy Crown Prince.
The naming of Prince Muqrin as Crown Prince was resolved in last year’s royal order issued by the late King Abdullah, supported by King Salman—who was then himself the Crown Prince—and approved by the majority of the council of allegiance. But this did not stop analysts from raising questions about the future of the ruling house of Saud, and the way in which power will be transferred from the sons to the grandsons of the founder of the Kingdom, King Abdulaziz Al Saud. Hence the importance of King Salman’s royal order naming Prince Mohammed Bin Naif as the Crown Prince and the Second Deputy Prime Minister. The decision offered a sense of assurance to people inside and outside the Kingdom and determined the main features of the future of the ruling house of Saud.
Those decisions are expected to be followed by others by King Salman, who constantly emphasized the importance of security, stability and continuity while adhering to the fundamentals of the Kingdom’s policy. Those who have followed his government career must know the role he played in the issuance of the 1992 Basic Law of Governance during King Fahd’s reign. They will also be familiar with the attention and care he pays to maintaining the coherence of the ruling family and the Kingdom’s role in ensuring regional stability and security. More importantly, throughout all the positions he has held, King Salman has been preoccupied with the affairs of citizens. Article 43 of the Basic Law of Governance stipulates that the royal council remain open to resolve people’s complaints and grievances.
This must have been the secret behind the Kingdom’s stability and the guarantor for the smooth transfer of power. Perhaps it could be the key to understanding why monarchies have remained the most stable of the states in the region.