Riyadh: Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz reportedly plans to relinquish power in favor of his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the next few days, local medica reports have claimed.
Rai al-Youm, an Arab world digital news and opinion website, reported on Wednesday that the king can announce the decision within “the next two nights.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Saudi-owned television news channel Al-Arabiya had announced the news in a Twitter message, but it retracted the post hours later.
Political analysts say the regime in Riyadh is apparently seeking to test the waters and examine public reaction regarding a surprise shift in power.
The expected development marks a change in the order of succession in Saudi Arabia from lateral lines of elderly brothers to a vertical order under which the king hands power to his most eligible son.
Speculations of King Salman’s possible abdication surfaced in late June, when the monarch deposed his nephew, then deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef as the heir to the throne and offered the position to Moahammed bin Salman.
In early September, the website of Lebanon’s al-Manar channel reported that the 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman had formed a team of aides to prepare the kingdom for celebrating his succession to power as the new king.
The paper quoted sources close to the royal family as saying that King Salman was due to step down over his health issues. The sources then noted that Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the kingdom’s security officials to increase supervision of royal figures to prevent any coup.
Since replacing his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef in June, the 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman has embarked on a campaign to consolidate power, taking on rivals within the royal family.
Late Saturday, Mohammed bin Salman sent shockwaves through the kingdom when he fired senior ministers and had dozens of the country’s richest men detained, ostensibly on the grounds of fighting corruption. The arrests included his cousin and one of the world's richest men, al-Waleed bin Talal.
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday voiced serious concern over the recent arrests in Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh has taken on more aggressive policies since Mohammed bin Salman’s elevation to the position of defense minister and deputy crown prince in 2015, and later to the position of crown prince.