Rulers in the United Arab Emirates have unanimously appointed Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the president of the hereditarily ruled nation on the Arabian peninsula.
The state-run news agency said the rulers of the country’s seven sheikhdoms made the decision at a meeting held in Al Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi.
It comes after the previous president, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, died on Friday aged 73. The transition of power marks only the third time the US-allied country has selected a president since becoming independent in 1971.
The last came in 2004, when Khalifa took over from his and Mohammed’s father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a month after his death.
The speed of Saturday’s announcement, a day after Khalifa’s death, appeared designed to show unity and reassure the world of the stability of the oil-and-gas producing country that hosts western military forces.
WAM described the vote as unanimous among the rulers of the country’s sheikhdoms, which also includes the city of Dubai.
“We congratulate him, and we pledge allegiance to him, and our people pledge allegiance to him,” Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, tweeted after the vote.
“The whole country is led by him to take it on the paths of glory and honour, God willing.”
The UAE as a whole is observing a three-day mourning period, with businesses shut across the country and performances halted in Khalifa’s honour. Electronic billboards all showed the late sheikh’s image in Dubai on Friday night as flags flew at half-mast.
Mohammed, 61, had been serving as the UAE’s de facto president since a 2014 stroke led his half-brother, Khalifa, to disappear from public view. Under his leadership, the UAE took on a more military focused approach, joining Saudi Arabia in its bloody, years-long war in Yemen that still rages.
Mohammed has been suspicious of the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, likely organising a campaign targeting Islamists in the UAE after the 2011 Arab spring and urging the west to take a harder line toward Tehran over concerns about its nuclear programme and its support of paramilitary groups throughout the region.
However, since the coronavirus pandemic the UAE under Mohammed sought to rehabilitate ties to Iran and Turkey, which has backed Islamists in the region.