Kuwait Emir Nawaf Al Sabah names Sheikh Meshal Al Sabah as new crown prince

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Kuwait's new ruler Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Sabah on Wednesday named Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Sabah as crown prince, state-run Kuna news agency announced.

Sheikh Meshal is deputy chief of the National Guard and a brother of the late emir, who died last Tuesday.

The selection of Sheikh Meshal, which must be approved by Parliament, "was blessed by the Al Sabah family," read a statement from the emir's office.

Earlier two members of Kuwait's ruling family posted messages on Twitter pledging allegiance to Sheikh Meshal as crown prince.

Sheikh Nawaf assumed power following the death of his brother Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad last week.

The country's Speaker said MPs could vote on the crown prince on Thursday, the last day of the Parliament’s term.

Kuwait's new Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Sabah gestures as he arrives to take the oath of office at the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait on September 30, 2020. Reuters
Kuwait's new Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Sabah gestures as he arrives to take the oath of office at the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait on September 30, 2020. Reuters

Sheikh Meshal is known as a forceful figure who steered clear of political battles and public roles, spending much of his career helping build the Gulf Arab state's security and defence apparatus.

Close to the late Sheikh Sabah and new Emir Sheikh Nawaf, Kuwait experts say, he is expected to take an active role in helping guide state affairs.

"The emir will listen to his views, he will have an impact in that way," said Kuwaiti political scientist and former UN envoy Ghanim Alnajjar. "His focus will be security, the judiciary and other domestic issues."

Sheikh Meshal, 80, has been deputy chief of the National Guard since 2004 and was head of State Security for 13 years after joining the Interior Ministry in the 1960s. He was offered several senior positions but declined them, experts say.

Sheikh Meshal, who attended Britain's Hendon Police College, was credited with helping to reform Kuwait's National Guard. Kuwaiti journalist Faisal Al Qanae once described him as the "biggest enemy" of cronyism and law breaking.

Sheikh Meshal's appointment traditionally works as a conduit between the ruling family and the lively national assembly, which will see elections later this year.

al-Maktoum meeting with Kuwait's new Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah and offering condolences to the latter, while mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, at the Emiri Terminal of Kuwait International Airport. AFP

Secretary-general of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit offering condolences to Kuwait's new emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, at Kuwait international airport's emiri terminal in the capital. AFP

Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah receiving condolences from Iraqi parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi in Kuwait City. AFP

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper talking with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser al-Sabah, before meeting with the the new emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, to offer condolences on behalf of President Donald J. on the passing of its emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in Kuwait City, Kuwait. AFP

Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah receiving condolences from British Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace in Kuwait City. AFP

Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah receiving condolences from Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, in Kuwait City. AFP

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi offering condolences on behalf of his government to Kuwait's new emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, at Kuwait international airport's emiri terminal in the capital. AFP

Lebanon's former prime minister Saad Hariri meeting with Kuwait's new Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah and offering condolences, at the Emiri Terminal of Kuwait International Airport. AFP

Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah receiving condolences from Comorian President Azali Assoumani in Kuwait City. AFP

Jordan's King Abdullah II and his son Crown Prince Hussein offering their condolences to the Kuwaiti royal family while mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, at the Emiri Terminal of Kuwait International Airport. AFP

Jordan's King Abdullah II meeting with Kuwait's new Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah and offering condolences to the latter, while mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, at the Emiri Terminal of Kuwait International Airport. AFP

Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, centre, arrives for the funeral of Kuwait's late ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah at the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Kuwait City. AFP

Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, conveys condolences of UAE leaders to the new Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah on death of Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad. Wam

Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, centre left, the son of the late Kuwaiti ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, receives condolences from Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, centre right, at the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Kuwait City. AFP

Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, left, meets with Kuwait's new Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah, right, and offera condolences to the latter at the Emiri Terminal of Kuwait International Airport. AFP

Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah receives Bahrain's Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa who offered condolences on the passing of the late Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. Kuwait News Agency

Iraq's President Barham Salih offers condolences to Kuwait's new Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah on the death of late Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, in Kuwait City, Kuwait. Kuwait News Agency via Reuters

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, left, meets with Kuwait's new Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah, right, and offers condolences to the latter at the Emiri Terminal of Kuwait International Airport. AFP

LONDON 1st October 2020. Rua AlZadjali (centre) and Amal Ali from the Oman Embassy in London sign a book of condolence at the Kuwait Embassy in London with the Kuwait Ambassador Khaled Al-Duwaisan (right) following the death of the Emir of Kuwait. Stephen Lock for the National

LONDON 1st October 2020. Former Kuwait Ambassador to Greece Raed Al-Rifai signs a book of condolence at the Kuwait Embassy in London , following the death of the Emir of Kuwait. Stephen Lock for the National

LONDON 1st October 2020. Rua AlZadjali from the Oman Embassy in London signs a book of condolence at the Kuwait Embassy in London following the death of the Emir of Kuwait. Stephen Lock for the National

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The roles of the heir apparent and prime minister were split in 2003 due to the health of the then-crown prince. The premier has since dealt with frequent gridlock between the hand-picked Cabinet and the Parliament, which has recently been at odds with ministers over debt issuing, investment and economic reforms.

Observers say that while Sheikh Nawaf and Sheikh Meshal kept a low public profile, the latter has stronger views.

Sheikh Nawaf, who is seen upholding Kuwait's current oil, investment and foreign policies, takes the helm as the country faces a liquidity crisis caused by low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, which the National Guard has played a visible role in combating.

Diplomats and analysts say the immediate focus will be on domestic issues with perceived corruption, living standards and the economy the top priorities for most Kuwaitis in a country.

Deutsche Bank has estimated that Kuwait's nearly $140 billion economy could shrink by 7.8 per cent this year in what would be one of the worst economic crunches among Gulf oil exporters.

Key will be co-operation between Cabinet and the outspoken Parliament, the Gulf region's oldest legislature that wields power to block bills and question ministers. Clashes have led to successive government reshuffles or dissolution of Parliament.

In the past, the body was often dominated by opposition groups until Sheikh Sabah broke their hold in 2012 by using executive powers to amend the voting system.

Kuwaiti opposition figures have proposed electoral reforms and a pardon for dissidents in recent meetings with Sheikh Nawaf before he assumed power.

"Reformers and independents are looking for reconciliation [with the government], enhancing freedom of speech, economic and political reforms, combating corruption, demographics," Mr Alnajjar said.

"It will be difficult to amend the electoral law with elections coming up ... but anything is possible."

Updated: October 7, 2020 01:42 PM

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