Many are seeing it as a signal of change in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has got a new next-in-line to the throne, in a succession twist that dominated headlines this week.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz promoted his son Mohammed bin Salman to the role of Crown Prince on Wednesday, relieving his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef of the post.

The 31-year-old Prince Mohammed, who was previously the deputy crown prince, is now the successor to his father’s throne.

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So, what could the change mean for Saudi?

prince mohammed bin salman

Well, many media outlets and Saudi commentators have suggested the change in succession could herald a shift towards a more modernised kingdom, as the young prince has spearheaded Saudi’s Vision 2030.

Under the post-oil economy plan, the government aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.

Indeed, change is already afoot, with a ban on women voting or taking part in elections lifted in 2015.

Women in Saudi can now also sit on the government’s advisory Shura Council, and in 2016 the strict religious police were stripped of their power to stop, question, pursue or arrest people.

Earlier this year, King Salman issued a directive allowing women to use government services such as education and healthcare without the consent of a male guardian.

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And while Prince Mohammed has not yet stated any key focuses in his new remit as Crown Prince, national sentiment suggests his promotion could signal a more progressive Saudi.

(The royal has previously been a champion of cultural shifts in the kingdom, such as pushing for more live music concerts via the General Entertainment Authority, an administration created as part of his Vision 2030).

“Many younger Saudis regard his ascent as evidence that their generation is taking a central place in running a country whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the province of the old,” Reuters reported.

Saudi's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Just last year, the prince opened up about the future of the kingdom, revealing his thoughts on women in the workplace.

“I just want to remind the world that American women had to wait long to get their right to vote. So we need time. We have taken many steps,” he told Bloomberg.

“In King Salman’s time, women were able to vote for the first time and 20 women won in these elections. Women can now work in any sector. In business and commerce, as a lawyer, in the political field and in all sectors. Women can carry out any jobs they want. What is left is that we support women for the future and I don’t think there are obstacles we can’t overcome.”

World leaders have since congratulated the royal on his ascension, including US President Donald Trump and HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Trump personally called Prince Mohammed – who is also chair of the kingdom’s Council for Economic and Development Affairs – to offer him his best wishes, the White House revealed in a statement.

“The two leaders discussed the priority of cutting off all support for terrorists and extremists, as well as how to resolve the ongoing dispute with Qatar,” said a spokesperson.

With Prince Mohammed’s promotion, he now also holds the title of deputy prime minister of Saudi Arabia while concurrently continuing in his role as defence minister.

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The royal, who holds a bachelor’s degree in law from King Saud University, has been credited with leading the kingdom’s war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

After Prince Mohammed’s new role was announced, Saudi TV shared footage of the royal meeting with the former crown prince.

“I am content,” Prince Mohammed bin Nayef said, according to Reuters, to which Prince Mohammed bin Salman replied: “We will not give up taking your guidance and advice.”

Only time will tell what Prince Mohammed’s new appointment will mean for the country and the region, but we’ll be watching with interest.

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Images: Getty