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UAE: Sheikh Mohammed elected as new president

May 14, 2022

In a show of unity, the leaders of the UAE's various sheikhdoms have chosen a new president. The rapid decision for the half-brother of the recently deceased president came as little surprise.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Al Nahyan has cultivated relationships with both western and eastern leadersImage: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been chosen to replace his half-brother as the president of the United Arab Emirates, the leaders of the seven sheikhdoms that comprise the country announced on Saturday.

President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan died on Friday following years of poor health, during which time Mohammed bin Zayed, known as MBZ, de facto held the reins of power.

In an apparent show of unity, the speedy decision was welcomed by the leader of the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who said in a statement: "We congratulate him, and we pledge allegiance to him, and our people pledge allegiance to him."

Mohammed said he was appreciative of the "precious trust" placed on him by the members of the Federal Supreme Council.

Staying on course

The UAE was founded in 1971 by the father of MBZ and the former president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who died in 2004.

The 61-year-old MBZ is only the third ruler of the oil-and-gas producing state, nestled on the Arabian Peninsula neighboring Saudi Arabia and just across the Persian Gulf from the other main regional power Iran.

The official ascension of MBZ to the position of president is unlikely to see any major changes in the trajectory of the UAE.

In recent years the country has been part of the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels in Yemen as well as a US-led push to "normalize" relations with Israel, for which MBZ was considered to be the driving force within the UAE.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Egypt
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Egypt in late MarchImage: Embassy of Israel in Egypt/AA/picture alliance

His predecessor Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014 and had rarely been seen in recent years. His funeral on Friday was kept low-key, but the country is officially undergoing three days of mourning.

World leaders queuing to meet MBZ 

US President Joe Biden congratulated MBZ on his election, adding that he looked forward to working with the leader "to further strengthen the bonds between our countries and peoples."

US Vice President Kamala Harris is due to travel to the UAE on Monday to offer condolences following Khalifa's death. She is also scheduled to meet with MBZ to "underscore the strength of the partnership between our countries and our desire to further deepen our ties in the coming months and years," her office said.

Oman's sultan was among the first leaders to visit him Saturday night. French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Israeli President Isaac Herzog were due to arrive on Sunday.

Johnson said he would use the visit "to reinforce the close bond between the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates which will continue under the Presidency of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan."

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Mohammed bin Zayed is known as MZB rather than MBZ. DW apologizes for the error.

ab/wd (dpa, AP, Reuters)