Kuwait swears in new emir after Sheikh Sabah’s loss of life | Center East
Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah swore to receive the body of his half-brother Sheikh Sabah, who died on Tuesday.
Kuwait has sworn in its new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, to receive the body of his half-brother, the late ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, who died in the United States at the age of 91.
The body of Sheikh Sabah, a recognized diplomat and mediator who ruled for 14 years, is expected to arrive in Kuwait City on Wednesday. He died Tuesday in Minnesota, where he has been hospitalized since July.
According to the royal court, the funeral will “be confined to the emir’s relatives” – a move likely aimed at avoiding large crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Kuwait’s new leader, 83-year-old Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf, was sworn in during a session of the National Assembly around 8:00 a.m. GMT. The Gulf state has already begun a 40-day national period of mourning.
Sheikh Sabah has built a reputation as a remarkable leader who helped steer his country through the 1990 Iraqi invasion, crashes in global oil markets, and upheaval in parliament and on the streets.
World leaders and Kuwaitis have extolled the legacy of the late emir, architect of the nation’s modern foreign policy and mediator in some of the worst Gulf crises.
“This man was the safety valve of the Arab world, not just for Kuwait,” said Kuwaiti citizen Bandar al-Dahani to the AFP news agency. “If God wills, this goodness will be in Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf and he will follow the path of the emir.”
Sheikh Nawaf, who has held high office for decades, is taking over Kuwait amid the effects of the coronavirus crisis, which caused a sharp drop in oil prices and serious economic consequences for the Gulf states.
The senior statesman, who was named heir in 2006, served as defense minister when Iraqi forces invaded the oil-rich emirate in 1990 and as interior minister amid the challenges armed groups posed.
The new leader is popular in the ruling al-Sabah family and is said to have been a consensus decision for the ruler. He also enjoys a reputation for humility and has largely held back.
No major political changes are expected during his reign, even after the Gulf has seismically changed with its neighbors Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and has chosen to establish relations with Israel.
Normalization with the Jewish state is highly unpopular with the Kuwaiti public, which largely supports the historical position of the Arab world to demand a solution to the Palestinian cause before diplomatic concessions are made to Israel.
Kuwait’s constitution provides that the ruler should be a descendant of the nation’s founder, Mubarak al-Sabah, but the throne has alternated between the descendants of his sons Salem and Jaber for four decades.
The candidates for the newly vacated role of the Crown Prince include the son of Sheikh Sabah and the former Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, a Kuwaiti political heavyweight.
“Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed should be seen as a caretaker rather than a new leader,” said Cinzia Bianco, research fellow at the European Council on External Relations. “Behind the scenes, however, younger princes would likely continue to fight for his successor.”