The 11 November appointment of Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa as Prime Minister is a hugely important signal of Bahrain’s future direction as a progressive, enlightened and prosperous Kingdom.
Prince Salman has long been preparing to ascend to this supreme executive role, having been appointed in 2013 as first deputy prime minister, with responsibility for overseeing the Kingdom’s executive agencies and government institutions. Indeed, Prince Salman has already been presiding over Cabinet meetings due to the late, lamented Prime Minister, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa’s, ill-health.
Crown Prince Salman has three decades of experience of serving in senior roles, having been appointed as vice-chairman of the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research in 1992; Undersecretary of Defence in 1995; and becoming Crown Prince and commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Defence Forces from 1999, then deputy supreme commander of the defence force in 2008.
In 2002, Prince Salman was appointed chairman of the Economic Development Board, making him one of the foremost officials responsible for managing economic policy, while masterminding a succession of initiatives for promoting economic expansion and facilitating foreign investment into the Kingdom. The Kingdom’s successes in moving away from dependence on oil towards a balanced economy with a thriving private sector, is in large part a testament to the Prince’s achievements.
Having graduated from Cambridge with a M.Phil. degree in History and Philosophy of Science, he is regarded as an intellectual with a progressive vision for the Kingdom, rooted in a strong economy, excellent ties with regional and global states, and an open and tolerant society amenable to tourism and foreign investment.
Throughout his years of public service, Prince Salman seized the opportunity to establish excellent relationships with the leaderships of countries around the world; including America, Europe and the Arab world. His strong ties with GCC leaders guarantee Bahrain’s continuing relevance as a foremost regional state.
Those close to the Crown Prince note that his charismatic, outgoing and good-natured personality has been an asset in building these relationships, along with his reputation for honesty and pragmatism in promoting Bahrain’s interests.
Over the past decade, the Crown Prince has been a foremost voice in the region speaking out against religious extremism and calling for more tolerant and nuanced understandings of the Islamic faith, while urging dialogue between religions and cultures. In a keynote 2014 speech, he warned that the principle confrontation across the region was between the forces of moderation and those he designated as theocrats. He described the ideology of entities like Daesh and Al-Qaeda as “fascist theocracy”.
Perhaps most important of all is the Crown Prince’s outstanding reputation as a unifying figure. In the aftermath of the 2011 unrest, it was Prince Salman who took the initiative in reaching out to opposition groups and respected figures from across Bahrain’s society for spearheading reconciliation efforts. Over the following years, the Prince pursued a further series of reconciliation initiatives. Indeed, he was the only leadership figure continuing to publicly engage with opposition leaders over this period. This prepared the ground for constitutional amendments and electoral reform in an effort to address grievances.
King Hamad and Prince Salman took the initiative in appointing the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry for thoroughly investigating the 2011 events and publishing a detailed report. The BICI’s recommendations were accepted in full and the Crown Prince took a personal interest in following up on implementation.
Given this record, Crown Prince Salman is arguably one of the principal leadership figures enjoying universal credibility, respect and trust from all Bahrain’s communities and faiths; thus enjoying the capabilities to ensure that Bahrain moves forward as a united state where all citizens enjoy constitutionally-protected rights, freedoms and opportunities.
Under the joint leadership of the King and Crown Prince, Bahrain can be confident that it is moving in the right direction, towards a bright and united future.