Ahmed Al Khatib has made a name for himself after a rapid rise to prominence under King Salman. His access to happenings in Riyadh are unrivalled and there is little this middle-aged executive does not touch; even a series of controversial episodes are no longer enough to remove him from the forefront.
Almost ten years to the day since sanctioning the purchase of Manchester City Football Club, Mansour bin Zayed continues to fly under the proverbial radar. His influence is best understood through the high-level positions he holds, most notably via a strong presence in Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth funds.
The maritime sector has been central to Dubai’s economic diversification away from its modest petroleum reserves. Overseeing the Emirate’s ports and free zones is Sultan bin Sulayem; a confidant and close friend of the Emir, Sultan has experienced both ups and downs but evidence points towards his enduring influence.
All eyes are on the much-discussed cabinet reshuffle expected in Cairo in the coming months. With signs that even the Prime Minister himself could be replaced, a review of his prospective successors will allay the uncertainty that this change could pose to Egypt’s investment environment.
Although the sons of Zayed unquestionably control politics in Abu Dhabi, distant cousins on their father’s side of the family have amassed considerable political and commercial prestige. In a setting whereby political activity is confined to Nahyan figures, understanding the significance of lesser known princes is of the utmost priority.
Top of the King and Crown Prince's agenda in recent months has been to secure widespread support through the appointment of loyalists. These new power players enjoy access to the Kingdom's strategic affairs, making it critical to assess who falls into the camp of Riyadh's new elite.
Riyadh's political elite are engaging in power plays not only to overhaul the state, as they repeatedly claim, but also to safeguard the regime from a coup d'état. Although their rule may seem guaranteed, the princes in charge have used every opportunity to safeguard Saudi's military apparatus.
Mohammed bin Zayed has spent years manoeuvring loyalists into the key posts around him, which will truly bear fruit once he formally inherits the throne. Commercial actors must endeavour to understand the significance of this, as the country's open-door economic policy is largely dependent upon the Crown Prince's own longevity.
Institutional manipulation is fast becoming Salman’s hallmark in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The latest restructuring of the Ministry of Interior’s senior leadership team, combined with the creation of the Presidency of State Security, shows that no stone will be left unturned in the King’s advancement of his son.
Power players in Saudi Arabia are tweaking their networks and staffing their ranks with loyalists. As a result, 2018 will involve elite readjustment to these new dynamics as well as a continued level of unpredictability. Shadow Governance will be closely monitoring MbS and those orbiting him.
Elite networks in Egypt are gearing up for a big year in 2018. The presidential election will capture headlines; but power plays - that reveal much about Cairo’s incumbent decision makers and their intentions if they win a second official mandate - will continue to fly under the radar.
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Although referred to as Courts, the Royal Court and Crown Prince Courts in Gulf countries do not belong to the judiciary. Instead, they are offices of the King or Crown Prince which provide advisory services to the political elite. A strong understanding of these informal advisory offices provides insight into the wider dynamics unfolding in traditionally ‘closed’ settings.
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