Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed elected president of the United Arab Emirates after the death of his brother

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The UAE’s longtime de facto ruler Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected president on Saturday, state media reported, a day after the death of former leader Sheikh Khalifa.

The 61-year-old was unanimously elected by the Federal Supreme Council, the WAM news agency reported, becoming the leader of the oil-rich country founded by his father in 1971.

Sheikh Mohamed, often known as ‘MBZ’, met with members of the Federal Supreme Council, made up of leaders from the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, as the country enters a period of mourning for his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa .

The widely expected ascension of Sheikh Mohamed formalizes his position as head of the desert state of 10 million people after years of pulling strings as Sheikh Khalifa was sidelined by ill health.

Under his quiet leadership, the United Arab Emirates sent a man into space, sent a probe to Mars and opened its first nuclear reactor, all while using its oil-funded influence to develop a more assertive foreign policy.

Closely allied with Saudi Arabia, he has become the leader of a reshaped Middle East since the withdrawal of traditional Arab powers and the reduction of US involvement, forging ties with Israel and joining a war against the Iranian-backed militants in Yemen.

The official media had already named Sheikh Mohamed as head of Abu Dhabi, the richest emirate in the United Arab Emirates, on Friday, inheriting one of the main titles held by Sheikh Khalifa, who died at 73.

Sheikh Mohamed, dressed in a kandura or light gray robe, was pallbearer during funeral prayers for his older brother who was laid to rest in Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Cemetery just hours after his death was announced , in accordance with Muslim tradition.

“Do the show”

Flags are at half mast around the United Arab Emirates and businesses and government offices are closed for three days as the country enters a 40-day mourning period for Sheikh Khalifa, who has ruled since 2004.

Sheikh Khalifa’s death has drawn condolences from the likes of US President Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Iran, demonstrating the UAE’s diverse allegiances.

French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Abu Dhabi on Sunday to pay tribute to the late Emirati leader, his office said.

Neighboring Saudi Arabia has suspended sports and entertainment and several countries have announced mourning periods.

Sheikh Mohamed, who was named Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in November 2004, is the third son of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, the revered founder of the United Arab Emirates.

He was deputy commander of the armed forces and chairman of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi, which controls the substantial finances of the emirate which owns 90% of the country’s oil production.

The United Arab Emirates, a former British protectorate, has grown from a desert outpost to a booming state in its short history, fueled by its oil wealth and Dubai’s rise as a commercial and financial center .

Sheikh Mohamed played a prominent role after Sheikh Khalifa retreated from public view in 2014, when he underwent surgery after a stroke. The cause of his death has not been announced.

The new president is expected to face greater competition for the UAE’s status as a regional financial hub, particularly from Saudi Arabia, and could toughen his stance on Iran, according to analysts.

But “functionally it changes little; MBZ has been running the show almost from the start,” tweeted Ryan Bohl, Middle East analyst at Stratfor Worldview.

(AFP)

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