Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan appointed as UAE president

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan; United Arab Emirates
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan

Rulers in the United Arab Emirates have announced they have unanimously appointed Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as president.

The state-run WAM news agency said the rulers of the hereditarily ruled nation’s seven sheikhdoms made the decision in a meeting at Al Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi.

It comes after late President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan died on Friday at the age of 73. It is only the third time this US-allied nation has selected a president since becoming independent in 1971.

The last, which saw Sheikh Khalifa take over from his and Sheikh Mohammed’s father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who died in 2004.

The speed of Saturday’s announcement, a day after Sheikh Khalifa’s death, appeared designed to show unity and reassure the world of the stability of this crucial oil and gas producing nation that hosts western military forces.

WAM described the vote as unanimous among the rulers of the country’s sheikhdoms, which also include the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai.

“We congratulate him, and we pledge allegiance to him, and our people pledge allegiance to him,” Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said on Twitter after the vote.

“The whole country is led by him to take it on the paths of glory and honour, God willing.”

The UAE as a whole is observing a three-day mourning period which will see businesses shut across the country and performances halted in Sheikh Khalifa’s honour. Electronic billboards all showed the late sheikh’s image in Dubai on Friday night as flags flew at half-mast.

Sheikh Mohammed, 61, had been serving as the UAE’s de facto president since a 2014 stroke saw his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa disappear from public view.

Under his leadership, the UAE took on a more military-focused approach in the region, joining Saudi Arabia in their years-long war in Yemen.

Sheikh Mohammed has long been suspicious of the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, and is believed to have organised a campaign targeting Islamists in the UAE after the 2011 Arab Spring and urging the West to take a harder line towards Tehran over concerns about its nuclear programme and its support of paramilitary groups throughout the region.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE under Sheikh Mohammed has sought to rehabilitate ties to Iran and Turkey, which has backed Islamists in the region.

“The smooth transition of power in the UAE reflects the sobriety of institutional work and the advanced level of governance mechanisms and their stability,” said Anwar Gargash, a senior Emirati diplomat.

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