Emir Sheikh Nawaf of Kuwait passes away, Sheikh Meshal appointed as the new leader

Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah died on Saturday, aged 86, according to the royal court just over three years after assuming power in the US-allied Gulf oil producer. The cause of his death was not immediately disclosed. The emir was admitted to hospital late last month due to what the state news agency described at the time as an emergency health problem but said that he was in a stable condition. Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, 83, who has been Kuwait’s de facto ruler since 2021, when the frail emir handed over most of his duties, was named as Sheik Nawaf’s successor. Sheik Nawaf became emir in September 2020 following the death of his brother, Sheikh Sabah, who had ruled for more than a decade and shaped the state’s foreign policy for over 50 years. Since he took over in 2020, Sheikh Nawaf maintained a foreign policy that balanced ties with those neighbors, whilst domestically eight governments were formed under his rule. Under Kuwait’s constitution, the crown prince automatically becomes emir but assumes power only after taking an oath in parliament. Analysts and diplomats say that Sheikh Nawaf, and his crown prince Sheikh Meshal, both appeared to align Kuwait more closely with regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia. Before handing over most of his constitutional duties to his designated heir, Sheikh Nawaf tried to secure a detente on the domestic political scene, including by issuing an amnesty pardoning dissidents that had been long-sought by opposition figures. But the stalemate continued, leaving Sheikh Meshal to try to put an end to the political bickering this year by dissolving parliament and holding early elections in June. Kuwait bans parliamentary parties but is still one of the region’s most politically liberal states, with a voluble political debate and the region’s most powerful elected legislative assembly that includes Sunnis, Shi’ites, liberals, and Islamists.