Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, has named his eldest son crown prince of Abu Dhabi as part of a series of senior leadership changes in the oil-rich Gulf state.
Sheikh Khaled’s appointment as heir apparent was widely expected as he has taken on more prominent roles in recent years and will end speculation over the succession, particularly the potential for a power struggle.
Sheikh Mohammed has also promoted three of his own brothers, naming Sheikh Tahnoon, who is the UAE’s national security adviser and also oversees a sprawling business empire, and Sheikh Hazza, who is deputy chairman of the powerful executive council of Abu Dhabi, as deputy rulers of the emirate. .
Sheikh Mansour, deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and best known outside the Gulf for owning English football club Manchester City, has been named vice-president of the state. This means he will serve alongside Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the prime minister and ruler of Dubai.
The changes come nearly a year after Sheikh Mohammed, known as MBZ, became president of the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven emirates, and ruler of Abu Dhabi after the death of his half-brotherSheikh Khalifa.
MBZ was already the de facto leader of the Gulf state for nearly a decade as Sheikh Khalifa’s health declined, and he is considered one of the most influential leaders in the Arab world. The United Arab Emirates pursued a strong foreign policy under his leadership.
Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East program at the Chatham House think tank, said MBZ had “formalized several appointments to show confidence and capability”.
“These measures also institutionalize a succession process which is important to build confidence in the continuity and governance model of the UAE,” she said.
The nominations cement the influence of MBZ and his five full brothers, known as “Bani Fatima six” in reference to their mother.
Sheikh Khaled, the crown prince, is in his early 40s and was educated in the United States before starting his official career in the security services. He has held increasingly senior positions in recent years and is a member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, the capital’s top decision-making body, and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Office.
His public profile has also been raised as he inaugurated projects, hosted CEOs of multinational corporations and met foreign dignitaries.
Signs of a change in leadership roles emerged earlier this month when Sheikh Tahnoon was appointed chairman of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia), the emirate’s $790 billion sovereign wealth fund, replacing of the late Sheikh Khalifa.
He was already one of the most influential figures in the United Arab Emirates and chairs ADQ, a public investment company, First Abu Dhabi Bank, the country’s largest lender, and International holding companya listed conglomerate that has a market capitalization of approximately $236 billion.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Mansour replaced MBZ this month as chairman of Mubadala, one of Abu Dhabi’s most active public investment funds, which manages assets of around $284 billion.
Gulf pundits said the moves were a sign that MBZ was stepping back from some of his roles as he settled into the presidency and elevated his most trusted lieutenants.
Abu Dhabi is by far the most powerful of the seven emirates that make up the federation, each with its own ruling family, and it directs the foreign and defense policy of the United Arab Emirates.
MBZ’s appointments come at a time when Abu Dhabi is enjoying a boon in petrodollars thanks to last year’s oil boom and becoming an increasingly active global investor thanks to its stable of sovereign wealth funds.