June 21 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia's King Salman promoted his son to crown prince on Wednesday, replacing the heir to the throne and changing the country's succession process.
Salman, 81, elevated Mohammad bin Salman, 31, formerly deputy crown prince, to next in line for the throne in one of the world's last absolute monarchies. The shakeup removes the prior crown prince, Mohammad bin Nayef, 57, from the line of succession. It also consolidates power in Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who currently serves as defense minister, chief of the state oil company and is a proponent of diversifying Saudi Arabia's economy.
The new successor to the throne, in a country in which the king has final say on all major decisions, presides over Saudi Vision 2030. The national plan for the future calls for a reduction in reliance on oil and a liberalization of the country's strict interpretation of Islam.
His supporters view him as hard-working and focused on the country's future. Critics regard him as inexperienced and eager for power, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
As defense minister, he is the leader of a coalition of Arab countries working to suppress the attempted overthrow of the government in neighboring Yemen by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The decree ends the career of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia's current interior minister. He won the respect of the country and its allies for his removal of al-Qaida networks within the kingdom.