Mishal al Ahmad, the world’s oldest crown prince, takes power after the death of the Emir of Kuwait

The Emir of Kuwait, Nawaf al Ahmad al Sabahdied this Saturday at the age of 86 after being urgently hospitalized last month, official Kuwaiti television reported.

“It is with great sadness and regret that we the Kuwaiti people, the Arab and Islamic nations and the friendly peoples of the world mourn the late Amir Sheikh Nawaf al Ahmad al Jaber al Sabah, who passed away before his Lord today. Saturday,” the minister of the Kuwaiti royal family said in a brief television appearance: Mohamed Abdulah al Mubarak Al Sabah.

The royal family did not disclose the reasons for the death of the emir, who was admitted to a medical center late last month for “an urgent health issue,” the details of which were not known. On that day it was officially announced that his health was “stable” despite the opacity of the royal family.

The health of Kuwait’s leadership remains a sensitive issue in this small Middle Eastern country bordering Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which has seen infighting on the palace gates.

Sheikh Nawaf was Kuwait’s interior and defense minister, but was not considered particularly active in the government outside of these offices. However, his election as emir did not spark controversy, although his advanced age led analysts to believe that his term would be short-lived.

His predecessor, Sheikh Sabah, was 91 at the time of his death and there was little news about his health during his more than 14-year rule.

Nawaf took the helm as emir in September 2020 at a time of paralysis and power struggles in one of the countries with the world’s largest oil reserves. But at the end of the following year he delegated “some of his constitutional powers” to the crown prince, Mishal al Ahmad83 years old, who according to the constitution will be the new emir of the Gulf state.

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During his short term in office, the emir made several medical trips to Western countries, particularly Italy, as rumors arose about his deteriorating health and his inability to continue leading the oil-rich country.

During his reign, Kuwait has established itself as a key regional diplomatic player, mediating in disputes such as the important conflict between Saudi Arabia and its allies on the one hand and neighboring Qatar on the other. A member of the OPEC oil cartel and the Gulf Cooperation Council, Kuwait is a key ally of the United States and has been seen as an anchor of moderation.

Experts emphasize that Sheikh Mishal al Ahmed was the emir’s half-brother and the main person responsible for the state’s intelligence and security services. He had already represented the Emir at important political and institutional events.

His rise to power was interpreted as a challenge to the trend of generational change among the Gulf’s ruling families toward a risk-averse, continuity-committed gerontocracy. A new crown prince has not yet been named, so the succession to the throne is unclear.

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