Saudi’s senior clerics welcome choice of new Crown Prince

King Salman appointed Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be next in line for the throne, replacing Prince Mohammed bin Nayef

Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, the Council of Senior Scholars, welcomed the choice of Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince, the Saudi Press Agency said on Wednesday.

King Salman appointed Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be next in line for the throne, replacing his older cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in a surprise move at the top of the world’s biggest oil producer.

The royal decree said the decision by King Salman to promote his son and consolidate his power was endorsed by 31 out of 34 members of the Allegiance Council, made up of senior members of the ruling Al Saud family.

A senior Saudi official said the decision was taken due to what he called special circumstances presented to the members of the Allegiance Council. He added that Mohammed bin Nayef supported the decision in a letter sent to the king.

The royal decree did not nominate a new deputy crown prince.

Last year Mohammed bin Salman announced sweeping changes aimed at ending the kingdom’s reliance to oil, part of his campaign to tackle systemic challenges that the kingdom has previously failed to address.

He is now Defence Minister, a role that in Saudi Arabia gives its incumbent command of one of the world’s biggest arms budgets and makes him ultimately responsible for Saudi Arabia’s military adventure in Yemen.

He also heads the Council for Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), a group of cabinet ministers who meet weekly and which oversees all elements of policy that touch on the economy or social issues like education, health and housing.

Prince Mohammed chairs the supreme board of Aramco, making him the first member of the ruling family to directly oversee the state oil company, long regarded as the preserve of commoner technocrats.

Read more: Saudi appoints Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince