Saudi Crown Prince Is Beating Trump, Putin And Taylor Swift In Time's Person Of The Year Poll

Saudi Arabia’s maverick Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, looks set to beat President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and a bevy of other high-profile figures in Time Magazine’s Person of the Year reader poll.

With only two weeks to the finish line, the 32-year-old, who is embarking on a modernization project in the kingdom long governed by the ultraconservative Wahhabi strand of Islam, sits on 22 percent of the vote out of 33 choices in the poll.

Trump, who won the title last year, is far behind in second place, with just 5 percent of the vote. The American president is tied with members of DACA protection program for undocumented migrants - who Trump proposed deporting - and with the hashtag #MeToo, a campaign to out high-profile figures accused of sexual assault and rape.

The reader vote does not dictate the final winner, but is often highlighted as reflective of the public mood. The actual decision is taken by the editors of the magazine, who choose a person, a group or an idea - or even an object - deemed to have had a decisive influence on the passing year, for better or worse. Past winners include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, doctors fighting to stem the Ebola epidemic, Pope Francis and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. 

Bin Salman has emerged as the heir apparent to the Gulf kingdom after a reshuffle earlier this year. The throne is currently occupied his father, 81-year-old King Salman. The crown prince's Vision 2030 project aims to appease the frustrations of a population of which over half are under 25 years old. Its stated aim is to procure social and economic change while diversifying the country's economy away from oil.

Trump Mohammed bin Salman U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Mohammed bin Salman, then deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia, in the Oval Office, March 14. Mark Wilson/Getty

At the same time, Bin Salman is busy exacerbating, rather than quelling, the regional rift between his kingdom and the Islamic Republic of Iran. On Thursday, he referred to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the “new Hitler of the Middle East” . The Sunni and Shia powerhouses in the region support rival proxy groups across the Middle East. 

Last month, Bin Salman accused Iran of involvement in a missile attack by Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen against Saudi capital Riyadh. Iran is supporting the Houthi rebels against Saudi-led coalition, mustered by Bin Salman in support of the Yemen's Sunni government, outsed from the capital by the Shiaa rebels in 2015.

At home, the crown prince led a sudden and wide-ranging anti-corruption crackdown that has seen high-profile Saudis including royals, billionaires and ministers detained at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. The purge encompassed 11 princes, four ministers, and dozens of officials and businessmen. Some are agreeing deals with the Saudi government, trading their assets in return for their freedom.

Bin Salman is referred to by some diplomats as “Mr. Everything” because of the power he wields at such a young age. Before becoming crown prince, he served as deputy crown prince and Saudi defense minister. In those positions, he played a public-facing role on the world stage, carrying out state visits to meet the likes of Obama and Putin.

Voting on the reader’s poll ends on December 3. The Person of the Year will be announced on December 6.

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