What does the death of Sheikh Sabah mean for the region, and the future of Kuwait?
Kuwait’s new ruler Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah on Wednesday named Sheikh Meshaal al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, currently the deputy head of the National Guard, as crown prince of the Gulf state.
The selection of Sheikh Meshaal, which must be approved by the Gulf Arab state’s parliament, “was blessed by the Al-Sabah family,” state news agency KUNA cited a statement from the emir’s office as saying.
Earlier, two members of Kuwait’s ruling family posted messages on Twitter pledging allegiance to Sheikh Meshaal as crown prince.
Sheikh Nawaf assumed power following the death of his brother Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad last week, at a time of tension between Kuwait’s larger neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iran and as the government tries to shore up finances strained by low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic.
Diplomats and analysts say that due to his low-key style and age, Sheikh Nawaf, 83, may delegate a larger portion of responsibilities to his heir apparent, who would have to act swiftly to tackle domestic issues.
Born in 1940, Sheikh Meshaal is a younger brother of the late emir who died last Tuesday. He has been deputy chief of the National Guard since 2004. He had previously served as head of security services and in the interior ministry.
Speaking to Al Jazeera ahead of the announcement, Dania Thafer, director of the Gulf International Forum, said that unlike other presumed candidates for the role, Sheikh Meshaal “does not have any alleged scandals and controversy associated with him”.
“He has a very close relationship with the Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, and is viewed to have good relations with neighbours such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” said Thafer.
“He was also the one that accompanied the late emir to the US for medical treatment,” she added.
The country’s parliament speaker has said if the emir announces a crown prince on Wednesday, then lawmakers would vote on his choice on Thursday, the last day of parliament’s term.