The elevation of Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has ended two years of speculation about a behind-the-scenes rivalry near the pinnacle of royal power, but he still has to win over powerful relatives, clerics and tribesmen.

The 31-year-old favored son of King Salman was already in effect the day-to-day ruler, with sweeping powers over defense, energy and the economy, even though his cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, occupied the more senior job as crown prince.

For two years the meteoric rise of Mohammed bin Salman stirred talk of strains and competition between the two princes, both known by their initials as MbS and MbN.

That all ended on Wednesday when the Al Saud family publicly closed ranks around MbS following his sudden elevation by royal decree. MbN, stripped both of his rank as heir and his position as the veteran head of Saudi Arabia’s internal security forces, was among the first to pledge allegiance to his newly elevated younger cousin.

And yet questions remain over how the youthful MbS will consolidate his own network of power and patronage.


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