The president of the United Arab Emirates named his eldest son as the crown prince of Abu Dhabi late Wednesday, making him the likely next leader of the oil-rich Gulf monarchy and cementing his family’s power.
President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Sheikh Khaled, 41, tapped his jiu jitsu-loving son as crown prince of the UAE’s wealthiest emirate – a position traditionally held by the leader-in-waiting.
It was part of the biggest political shake-up since Sheikh Mohamed, 62, sometimes known as “MBZ” and the long-time de facto ruler of the UAE, became president last May following the death of his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa. who was president. sidelined by ill health for years.
MBZ’s brother Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, owner of Manchester City football club, became vice president, joining Dubai ruler and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in the role.
Two other brothers of the president – Tahnoun bin Zayed, the UAE’s national security adviser and chairman of the sovereign wealth fund ADQ, and Hazza bin Zayed – became deputy rulers of Abu Dhabi, which controls most of the country’s oil reserves. .
MBZ’s ascent to the presidency last year fueled speculation about who would succeed him as Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, with Sheikh Khaled and Tahnoun both tipped for the honour.
The UAE, one of the world’s largest oil producers and an ally of both the United States, Russia and China, has risen to power in the Middle East as traditional heavyweights such as Egypt and Iraq have fallen. back in recent years.
Sheikh Khaled’s appointment was welcomed by other Gulf rulers, including fellow energy giants Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as the leaders of the other six emirates of the UAE.
– ‘Consolidation of power’ –
Gulf commentator Bader Al-Saif, an assistant professor of history at Kuwait University, said the series of changes had consolidated power among MBZ’s close family.
“This move (appointing his son rather than his brother as crown prince) is expected. It follows (the) linear model seen elsewhere in the Gulf… it provides for greater stability and a smoother succession ,” he said in a tweet.
“Consolidation of power among full MBZ siblings is no secret. Today’s decrees reaffirm it,” he said.
Sheikh Khaled has served as a member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Office, and is a board member of state oil giant ADNOC.
He was closely involved with youth and environmental projects as well as sport, promoting jiu jitsu and helping to bring NBA basketball games to Abu Dhabi.
Abdul Khaleq Abdallah, a professor of political science from the UAE, said that Sheikh Khaled had already represented his father on trips abroad as part of his preparations for leadership.
With his father still in the early days of his presidency, Sheikh Khaled still has time to learn, he said.
“He was being groomed for this job. Everyone who has watched him closely over the years knows that he is ready for it and that he is suitable for the job,” Abdallah told AFP.
“He has earned his father’s trust. He gets along very easily with people, he mixes well which is very important for a future leader.”