Kuwait swears in new emir after death of acclaimed ruler



Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah salutes the crowd after being sworn in as Kuwait's new emir at the National Assembly in Kuwait City on September 30th. [Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP]

Kuwait on Wednesday (September 30th) swore in its new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, and prepared to receive the body of his half-brother, the late ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah who died in the US at the age of 91.

Sheikh Nawaf was visibly emotional as he addressed the National Assembly a day after the death of the emir, an acclaimed diplomat and mediator who ruled for 14 years.

"I promise you that I will do my best and everything in my power to preserve Kuwait, its security and stability, and to ensure the dignity and well-being of the people," the 83-year-old said after taking the oath of office.

He called for unity against the challenges that face the region, and committed himself to Kuwait's "democratic approach" in the address before lawmakers.


A picture taken September 29th in Kuwait City shows a portrait of Kuwait's late emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. [Yasser Al-Zayyat/ AFP]

Kuwait has a lively political arena with a fully elected parliament that enjoys wide legislative powers and can vote ministers out of office.

The country has begun a 40-day period of national mourning for Sheikh Sabah.

Sheikh Sabah earned a reputation as a shrewd, unshakeable leader. World leaders and Kuwaitis have hailed his legacy, as architect of the nation's modern foreign policy and mediator in some of the worst crises to grip the Gulf.

Sheikh Nawaf, who has held high office for decades, was named heir apparent in 2006. He has served as defence minister and also as interior minister.

The new leader is popular within the ruling Al-Sabah family and is reported to have been a consensus choice for ruler. He also enjoys a reputation for modesty and has largely maintained a low profile.

Major policy changes are not expected during his reign.

Contestants for the newly vacated role of crown prince include Sheikh Sabah's son and former deputy prime minister Nasser Sabah al-Ahmed Al-Sabah.

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