DUBAI, United Arab Emirates ( Associated Press) — The rulers of the United Arab Emirates announced Saturday the unanimous appointment of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as president of the nation’s hereditary government, signaling both unity and stability in this key peninsular country. Arabian, rich in hydrocarbons and hosting Western military.
The ascension of Sheikh Mohammed, 61, was expected after the death on Friday of his half-brother and UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at the age of 73.
It is the third time that the nation, an ally of the United States, has changed its president since its independence in 1971.
Under Sheikh Mohammed, who has been the nation’s de facto leader since Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014, the UAE had sought to militarily project its power across the region, joining a war in Saudi-led Yemen, but since the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, Sheikh Mohammed and the United Arab Emirates in general have tried to recalibrate their approach by largely withdrawing from the war and seeking diplomatic detentes with rivals.
The UAE also diplomatically recognized Israel, which shares Sheikh Mohammed’s longstanding suspicions about Iran. However, ties with the United States have been strained in recent years.
The state news agency WAM described the election as unanimous among the rulers of the seven territories into which the country is divided, including the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. They made the decision during a meeting held at Al Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi.
“We congratulate him and pledge allegiance to him, and our people pledge allegiance to him,” Dubai leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum tweeted after the vote. “The whole country is led by him to lead him along the paths of glory and honor, God willing.”
Before Friday there was only one death of a president in the country’s history, which saw Sheikh Khalifa succeed his and Sheikh Mohammed’s father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, after their deaths in 2004. Sheikh Zayed, whose name adorns a major road linking the Emirates and whose face appears everywhere in the nation, remains widely seen as the founding father of the country.
The immediacy of Saturday’s announcement seemed intended to show unity and reassure the world about stability in a country crucial to oil and natural gas production, which is also home to Western military troops.
The Emirates decreed three days of official mourning in which businesses will close and shows will be suspended in honor of Sheikh Khalifa. On Friday night, electronic screens in Dubai flashed the image of the late sheikh as flags flew at half-staff.
Jon Gambrell is at: www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP