Global Tracker

Saudi Arabia’s Decision to Let Women Drive is a Sign That the Crown Prince Has Been Handed the Keys to the Kingdom

The decision is a sign that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is positioning himself to take complete control of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and push forward his reformist agenda.

BY: OSSAMA AYESH

A royal decree in Saudi Arabia signed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz himself recently announced a decision to allow women to drive. The decision marks a reversal of a longstanding tradition in Saudi Arabia. As it stands, a new high level ministerial committee will convene to discuss the specific details of the royal decree. The decree states that women will be allowed to drive “in accordance with Islamic Law.” The official rollout of this policy will take effect in June of 2018 after the ministerial committee finalizes the details of the order.

WHY IT MATTERS:

This development will be interpreted by many as the latest sign that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is consolidating even more power and authority since the change in succession. The Vision 2030 Plan, the Crown Prince’s multi-sector blueprint for the future and path ahead for modernization and reform, is beginning to take shape ahead of the 2020 target known as the National Transformation Plan. Part of Vision 2030 promises to increase women’s participation in the workforce, but the policy of guardianship greatly hinders this possibility.

While old Wahhabi policies around women seem to contradict much of what Vision 2030 lays out, the recent decree illustrates two possible key developments. The first is that the ideological gaps between older Wahhabi fundamentalists and the newer generation are increasing, creating the increased possibility of turmoil within the royal family. The second is that Muhammed bin Salman’s agenda of social, political, and economic reform in Saudi Arabia is being realized, which would invalidate recent reports stating that he is currently scaling back Vision 2030.

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