Saudi purge jolts markets; critics see power grab, many say it was overdue

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 24. Photo: Reuters

All major Gulf stock markets slid on Tuesday on jitters about Saudi Arabia’s sweeping anti-graft purge, a campaign seen by critics as a populist power grab but by ordinary Saudis as an overdue attack on the sleaze of a moneyed ultra-elite.

US President Donald Trump endorsed the crackdown, saying some of those arrested have been “milking” Saudi Arabia for years, but some Western officials expressed unease about the possible reaction in Riyadh’s opaque tribal and royal politics.

Authorities detained dozens of top Saudis including billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in a move widely seen as an attempt by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to neuter any opposition to his lightening ascent to the pinnacle of power.

Admirers see it as an assault on the endemic theft of public funds in the world’s top oil exporter, an absolute monarchy where the state and the ruling family are intertwined.

 

“Corruption should have been fought a long time ago because it’s corruption that delays society’s development,” Riyadh resident Hussein al-Dosari told Reuters.

“God willing, everything that happened … is only the beginning of what is planned,” said Faisal bin Ali, adding he wanted to see “correcting mistakes, correcting ministries and correcting any injustices against the general population.”

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