Independent Online

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView weather by locationView market indicators

Ailing UAE ruler dies, influential prince set to succeed him

Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), listens to the national anthem in Abu Dhabi, UAE. AP Photo/Murat Cetinmuhurdar, Turkish Presidency Press Office

Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), listens to the national anthem in Abu Dhabi, UAE. AP Photo/Murat Cetinmuhurdar, Turkish Presidency Press Office

Published May 13, 2022

Share

The president of the United Arab Emirates has died and his powerful younger brother is expected to succeed him at the helm of OPEC's third biggest oil producer.

Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who steered the Gulf Arab country through the global financial crisis and oversaw its rapid economic transformation, had been in office since 2004. He was 73.

Story continues below Advertisement

Sheikh Khalifa was also ruler of Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest of the seven sheikhdoms that comprise the UAE. His younger brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is expected to become president of the country and ruler of Abu Dhabi.

“Khalifa bin Zayed, my brother, my mentor and my teacher, may God have mercy on you and take you into his good grace and paradise,” Sheikh Mohammed wrote on Twitter. It's not clear who will succeed him as crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

MBZ, as Sheikh Mohammed is commonly known, has been the UAE's de facto leader for years due to Sheikh Khalifa's poor health. The succession is not expected to result in any significant shift in policy direction, including on oil.

Sheikh Mohammed already controls the country's energy policy and oil wealth, estimated to amount to 6% of the world's proven reserves. The Crown Prince is also chairman of the UAE national oil company and heads Abu Dhabi's Supreme Council for Financial and Economic Affairs, making him the country's most powerful man long before his brother's death.

“Functionally it changes little; MBZ has been running the show almost from the get go,” Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at Stratfor Worldview wrote on Twitter. “But it's the end of an era for the UAE, one marked by a second gold rush for the service and knowledge sector.”

The UAE announced 40 days of mourning with the public and private sector closing for three days from Saturday.

Story continues below Advertisement

Sheikh Khalifa was born in 1948 in the oasis of Al Ain, near the border with the sultanate of Oman.

He became Abu Dhabi prime minister in 1969, when the area was part of a British protectorate. After independence in 1971, he became defence minister and took on other official roles.

He had eight children — two sons and six daughters — with his wife, Sheikha Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei, AP reported. He also had several grandchildren, it said.

Story continues below Advertisement

When the global financial crisis ripped through Dubai in 2009, Sheikh Khalifa spent billions bailing out the glitzy emirate, which was then still building what would become the world's tallest tower. It was renamed the Burj Khalifa in his honour.

Bloomberg

Share