For all you Saudi fans and fanatics out there, the news of Prince Mugrin’s appointment as the second deputy prime minister took most by surprise. There’s a wonderful piece on Prince Mugrin and what this means to Saudi Arabia here by Michael Stephens. However, it is possible that Prince Mugrin, who is the youngest surviving son of the founder of the Kingdom, would become King.
I’m not going to go over the same ground that every Saudi watcher has covered over the past few days. What I will do is recall me and my wife’s personal memories of Mugrin from 2007. We were media partners to the first e-government conference in Saudi Arabia, e-Transactions, and had unfettered access to the event and its speakers. Prince Mugrin was, if I remember correctly, the only royal family member to both attend and speak at the event.
Prince Mugrin was on a panel which was addressing the issue of bureaucracy as it relates to online services. What struck my wife in particular was how candid the Prince was, particularly in relation to Saudi government. In effect, he said that Saudi Arabia had far too much bureaucracy and that e-government could not be in place sooner. For a prince who is first-tier (even the royal family in KSA has rankings) and who held the position of head of the Saudi Intelligence at the time Mugrin seemed acutely aware of the problems that faced society. We were impressed by his open demeanor and his directness.
A more lasting impression, and probably an indication as to why Mugrin is reportedly close to King Abdullah, was made during Mugrin’s tour of the exhibitor partners. Again, as the publisher of the media guides to the event, we had a stand in the exhibition area. A number of the team on the stand were female, and Prince Mugrin greeted them all warmly and even going so far as to shake their hands and asking them about the conference.
To this day my wife who was at the stand when Prince Mugrin visited talks fondly of the encounter. While much has been made of the succession remaining with the sons of the founder of the Kingdom rather than being passed down to the next generation of the Al Saud family, I’m optimistic that Prince Mugrin will continue to promote King Abdullah’s agenda to slowly but surely reform the Kingdom’s government and cultural practices.