After the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was laid to rest on Friday, the nation’s ruling council unanimously appointed his brother – Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) – as the country’s new president on Saturday.
MBZ, 61, has been acting as the de facto ruler of the UAE since Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014 and was widely expected to take over the post.
“The smooth transition of power in the UAE reflects the sobriety of institutional work and the advanced level of governance mechanisms and their stability,” said Anwar Gargash, a senior Emirati diplomat.
Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said MBZ’s appointment to the presidency “represents a new historical era and a new birth.”
“We look forward to the acceleration of development aimed at consolidating the global sovereignty and pioneering of the Emirates,” he said.
MBZ will become the nation’s third leader since it was founded in 1971. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the first president of the UAE and considered to be the “father” of the nation. When he passed away in 2004, Sheikh Khalifa took over.
Sheikh Khalifa, 73, was born in 1948 in eastern Abu Dhabi in what was at the time an undeveloped city called Al Ain where Evangelical medical missionaries founded a hospital under the urging of Sheikh Sultan.
Emiratis paid their respects to Khalifa’s family at mosques across the country including the country’s largest, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The funeral was marked with a military honor guard.
As the country enters a 40-day mourning period, MBZ will receive condolences from the rulers of the Emirates, senior officials and foreign dignitaries at Mushrif Palace. Government offices and schools will be closed until Tuesday.
After the funeral and burial on Friday, congratulations began pouring in for MBZ in his new role.
U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated his “long-time friend.”
“As I told Sheikh Mohamed yesterday during our phone call, the United States is determined to honor the memory of the late president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan by continuing to strengthen the strategic partnership between our countries over the coming months and years,” he said. “I look forward to working with Sheikh Mohamed to build from this extraordinary foundation to further strengthen the bonds between our countries and peoples.”
A U.S. delegation, led by Vice President Kamala Harris, is expected in the UAE on Monday to offer their condolences.
The sultan of Oman was among the first leaders to visit Sheikh Mohamed on Saturday night. In addition to Harris, other leaders, including Israeli President Isaac Herzog, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are expected to visit the new president.
“In a global reality of wars, interests, and conflicts — friendship has truly great value, and it is measured also, and perhaps in particular, in moments of sorrow and pain,” Herzog said. “The partnership between our countries is an asset for us and for the whole region, and it has been built and is still being built by bold and groundbreaking leaders, of whom the late Sheikh Khalifa was one.”
“Sheikh Khalifa’s passing is a great loss for his nation, and I believe and hope that his legacy — a legacy of peace, a legacy of friendship between the nations of this region, a legacy of progress and prosperity — will lead to flourishing and the continued development, progress, and peace of the Middle East.”