Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected by the Federal Supreme Council, the state-run WAM news agency says.
The UAE’s long-time de facto ruler Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected as president on Saturday a day after the death of its former leader.
Sheikh Mohamed was elected by the Federal Supreme Council, the state-run WAM news agency said, after years of calling the shots from behind the scenes while his half-brother President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was sidelined by poor health.
The rulers of the United Arab Emirates’ seven sheikhdoms made the decision at a meeting. It comes after Sheikh Khalifa died on Friday.
WAM described the vote as unanimous among the rulers of the country’s sheikhdoms, which also includes the skyscraper-studded 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, said on Twitter after the vote. “The whole country is led by him to take it on the paths of glory and honour, God willing.”
Widely known as MBZ, Sheikh Mohamed is one of the Arab world’s most powerful leaders. A graduate of Britain’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he commands one of the best-equipped armies in the Gulf region.
Working behind the scenes for years as de facto leader, Sheikh Mohammed, 61, transformed the UAE military into a high-tech force, which coupled with its oil wealth and business hub status, extended Emirati influence internationally.
Mohammed began wielding power in a period when his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa suffered bouts of illness, including a stroke in 2014.
The speed of Saturday’s announcement appeared designed to show unity and reassure the world of the stability of this crucial oil-and-gas producing nation that hosts Western military forces.
Abu Dhabi, which holds most of the Gulf state’s oil wealth, has held the presidency since the founding of the UAE federation by Sheikh Khalifa’s father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in 1971.
The UAE as a whole is observing a three-day mourning period that will see businesses shut across the country and performances halted in Sheikh Khalifa’s honour. Electronic billboards all showed the late sheikh’s image in Dubai on Friday night as flags flew at half-staff.