As Yemen burns, Time readers vote Saudi Crown Prince person of the year
The award goes to those who “for better or worse” influenced the year. The 32 year old scored 24 percent of the vote, with the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment coming in second place with a comparatively modest six percent of the votes.
In third place, with five percent of the vote, were three candidates: former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick, for his #takeaknee movement; special counsel for the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller; and the Dreamers, undocumented migrants who came to the US as children.
Bin Salman overtook Hillary Clinton, Vladimir Putin and even the Pope to be crowned the people’s choice, winning far more votes than the three combined.
While the prince has been praised for pushing reform in the Kingdom, such as finally allowing women to legally drive, as of next June, and has also been the subject of a number of complimentary features in media outlets like the New York Times and the Guardian, his foreign policy achievements are less than impressive.
Bin Salman has promised to modernize Saudi Arabia by diversifying the economy away from its dependence on oil, loosening restrictions on entertainment and reducing the power of the religious police.
The prince was behind a bizarre corruption crackdown in November, which saw more than 200 wealthy businessmen and members of the royal family rounded up and imprisoned inside the Ritz Carlton hotel where they were reportedly beaten and offered the chance to buy their way out of trouble, by parting with up to 70 percent of their wealth. The move was seen as a way to consolidate power and eliminate competition before he ascends the throne as king. The prince’s own wealth, including his recent purchase of a yacht estimated to be worth as much as $500 million, was not included in the crackdown.
The purge was carried out at the same time that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation while visiting the Kingdom, in a pre-recorded statement broadcast on Saudi television. The unusual move sparked speculation that Hariri was under duress, a theory that gained weight when, after two weeks, Hariri returned to Lebanon and delayed his resignation.
The young prince is also at the helm of the Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen since March 2015.
Saudi Arabia was fighting to reinstate President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who was ousted by Houthi rebels in 2015 after he extended his term in 2014. As the two-year bombing campaign drags on, Yemen is facing what the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock described as “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades,” in addition to a major cholera outbreak, while the Saudi blockade prevents aid and shipments getting in. The kingdom has been accusedof war crimes by human rights groups.
Bin Salman also played a part in ostracizing Qatar in June for its support of terrorism, resulting in a blockade and diplomatic crisis. Five months later, Qatar is yet to bow to the demands set out by the Kingdom, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt. The boycott seemingly backfired, with Qatar actually strengthening its alliances with Turkey and Iran.
Data from the reader poll was collected by Apester, an Israeli-US company headquartered in New York. RT spoke to the company to find out about its safeguards against bot voting.
“We do have a few security measurements which are also backed with people from our team who monitored the voting 24/7 - including the traffic origins and voting trends,” Apester’s Adir Ben Yehuda told RT. “We fully understand that this is a very sensitive subject and Time Inc. are good partners of ours , so we did took extra safety measurements.”
Last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the readers’ poll, while Donald Trump was awarded the Time Person of the Year.