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King Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah

Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah, the Crown Prince and Deputy Emir, was expected to assume power after the demise of Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah on 29 September 2020. Sheikh Nawaf, 83, was temporarily given some of the Emir’s constitutional duties on 18 July 2020 when the Emir was admitted to hospital for medical checks. Under Kuwaiti law, in the absence of the Emir, the crown prince is appointed as acting ruler. Contestants for the role of crown prince include Sheikh Sabah’s son and former deputy prime minister Nasser Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who is a heavyweight of Kuwaiti politics.

His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah was named First Deputy Prime Minister October 16th, 2003, and proclaimed Crown Prince, in accordance with constitutional procedures, on Tuesday 8th Muharram 1427 A.H., corresponding to February 7th, 2006. The tradition of the Crown Prince also holding the position of Prime Minister remained in effect until 2003, when the offices were separated.

It is likely that the Amir appointed his younger, weaker half brother Shaykh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al Sabah as Crown Prince (CP) for fear that a stronger figure would usurp some of the authority of the Amir, much as the Amir himself did when he was PM. By tradition, it was incumbent on the Amir to choose a crown prince from the al-Salem vice al-Jaber branch. The Amir side-stepped this tradition to select his brother. CP Shaykh Nawaf and PM Shaykh Nasser, both non-threatening personalities, were appointed by the Amir, reportedly without Al Sabah family consultation, on the same day in February 2006.

The current Crown Prince, Shaykh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al Sabah, is correctly viewed as being an extremely decent and nice, weak and ineffectual leader, thoroughly disengaged from politics. The "president" of the relatively new "National Security Board," Shaykh Ahmed al-Fahd Al Sabah is clever and ambitious and is widely seen as being the only member of the ruling family having both the will and the capacity to rule. He is also widely perceived as being corrupt, together with his close ally the Amir's half-brother Misha'al. Openly contemptuous of the Prime Minister, Ahmad al-Fahd believes the Goovernment has not done enough to manage its own restive tribal and Salafist populations; at the same time he has been accused of manipulating parliamentary elections for tribal gains as a means of generating loyalty. His relationship with his uncle the Amir reportedly has been rocky.

Shaykh Nawaf, born in 1937, has a long history of government service (he was Defense Minister at the time of the Iraqi invasion; until his appointment in July, he was Deputy Commander of the National Guard) but is neither highly educated nor particularly sophisticated, and is not seen as a strong figure. He was born on June 25th, 1937. The son of the late Amir Sheikh Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, His Highness was raised in a home where education and discipline were stressed. He studied the Holy Quran at an early age and enrolled in public schools until he completed his education. His Highness has four sons and a daughter.

As Governor of Hawalli from February 12th, 1962, His Highness' main concern was keeping the Hawalli area, an ever-growing multi-ethnic area, a safe and harmonious place for people to live and work in. His Highness Sheikh Nawaf urged interior ministry officials to increase patrol cars in the streets to keep the peace and provide more security. His Highness often personally interceded to resolve family problems. His Highness undertook the responsibility for the Hawalli Governorate for about sixteen years.

As Minister of Interior from March 1978 and again from July 13th, 2003, His Highness focused on the improvement of the police and security agencies by introducing a Legal Department to advise them on legal and administrative procedures. The organizational level of this department was later upgraded to Undersecretariat. His Highness effected his deep belief in the open door policy and urged senior commanders of the ministry to follow it. He also urged commanders to facilitate ministerial procedures for both citizens and expatriates. He modernized all Ministry of Interior departments by providing modern equipment and financial capabilities. His Highness established a Mayoral Department 'Al-Mukhtareen' to care for citizens in their residential area and a Department for Conferences. He established an Elections Department / Electoral Office to prepare for and organize National Assembly and Municipal Council elections. His Highness established a new organizational structure for the ministry encompassing both civilian and military divisions to keep up with the rapid growth and progress witnessed at the time. His Highness widely encouraged the ministry's civilian employees and military personnel to continue their further education through academic scholarships. His Highness played a pivotal role in supporting Gulf and Arab security through active participation in meetings of Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab interior ministers.

As Minister of Defense from 26 January 1988, His Highness established a Department for Private Contracts. He ensured that purchase contracts for weapons stipulated personnel training and maintenance. His Highness developed the ministry's legal department and established a Higher Committee for Defense Purchases, comprised of senior military commanders and civilian employees of the ministry. His Highness attached importance to sending young military personnel abroad for training on military aircraft maintenance and other sophisticated military equipment.

As Minister of Social Affairs and Labor from April 20th, 1991, His Highness stressed the concept of social work and proved to be the best advocate for the welfare of women and children. His Highness established a specialized hospital for the elderly within the compound of the social care homes providing for the care and comfort of the residents. As Deputy Chief of the National Guard from October 16th, 1994, His Highness took a great deal of interest in the religious, cultural, artistic and social activities of the National Guard personnel. His Highness raised the standard of medical services for the National Guard and encouraged young people to enlist. His Highness Sheikh Nawaf sent many National Guard personnel on educational and advanced military courses.

On 26 October 2003, an Amiri Decree elevated Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Shaykh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah to First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Shaykh Nawaf is a half-brother of both the Amir and the Prime Minister, though all three had different mothers. There were two other DPMs: the Defense Minister, who is also a member of the ruling family, and the Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs, who is not. In practice, Shaykh Nawaf was already functioning as de facto First DPM. This move cemented the authority of Prime Minister Shaykh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah. For one thing, it underscores the separation of the position of Prime Minister from that of Crown Prince. From independence until July 2003, the Crown Prince was always Prime Minister. Until being named Prime Minister in July, Shaykh Sabah was First DPM and Foreign Minister. It also strengthened the hold of the Jaber branch of the ruling family.

Loyalty and bloodline appear to be his selling points: he presents no threat to Shaykh Sabah, and is not generally seen as a prospective Amir. Elevating him helps to keep at bay the elder shaykhs of the Salem line, without unduly threatening the younger generation. The Amir must be a direct descendant of Mubarak the Great, but in practice all rulers since Mubarak have come from the lineage of only two of his sons, Jaber and Salem, and almost always alternately. The aged and ailing Crown Prince is a Salem, as are National Guard Commander Shaykh Salem al-Ali al-Salem al-Sabah -- who actually outranks the Prime Minister in the protocol of state -- and Chairman of the National Committee for Missing and POW Affairs Shaykh Salem Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah, who outranks Nawaf. Foreign Minister Shaykh Dr. Mohammed Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah, Shaykh Salem's younger half-brother, is widely seen as a leading candidate for the top spot.

When Shaykh Saad abdicated in favor of Shaykh Sabah, the positions of both the Crown Prince and the Prime Minister would need to be filled. The amirship had traditionally alternated between the Jaber and Salem branches of the Al-Sabah family; however, this is merely an historical coincidence. There were, in fact, few potential candidates for either position from the Salem branch, although Foreign Minister Shaykh Dr. Mohammed Al-Salem Al-Sabah, who has a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University, was a notable exception. Shaykh Dr. Mohammed, the leading figure among the younger generation of Al-Sabah, was considered by many to have the experience and vision necessary to lead Kuwait in the twenty-first century. One other (unlikely) candidate from the Salem branch is Shaykh Ali Salem Al-Ali Al-Salem Al-Sabah, the son of National Guard Chief Shaykh Salem Al-Ali and a former Minister of Communications and Minister of Finance; he did not currently hold a government position.

The other leading candidates for the positions of Crown Prince and Prime Minister are from the Ahmed line of the Jaber branch. One candidate is Deputy Chief of the National Guard Shaykh Mishal Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who some said would in any case be "the real strong man" behind Shaykh Nawaf if the latter was appointed to either position. Energy Minister Shaykh Ahmed Al-Fahd Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah was also rumored to be a potential candidate. Shaykh Ahmed had expended considerable effort to build support both within the ruling family and among Kuwaiti society more broadly; however, at 42, many considered him too young for either position.

First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Shaykh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah was one candidate from the Ahmed line of the Jaber branch, though some thought that Shaykh Nawaf was "weak" and was "not a decision maker." But Shaykh Nawaf would be acceptable to the Salem branch due to his close relationship with Shaykh Saad. Shaykh Nawaf was widely viewed as disengaged and ineffective and as Amir, Shaykh Sabah is certain to exercise his rights and authorities under the Kuwaiti constitution which stipulates that the "Amir shall exercise his powers through his Ministers," and "The Prime Minister and the Ministers shall be collectively (and individually) responsible to the Amir."

After meeting with senior family members the evening of 07 February 2006, the Amir appointed his half-brother and former Minister of Interior Shaykh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as Crown Prince, and his nephew and former Minister of Amiri Diwan Affairs (a non-Cabinet ministerial position) Shaykh Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as Prime Minister. The appointments give the already dominant Al-Jaber branch of the ruling family, specifically the Al-Ahmed line, control of the country's top three posts and may end -- many speculate for good -- the historical alternation of the amirship between the Jaber and Salem branches of the ruling family. The advantage of continued separation was that it allowed the Crown Prince to avoid the "day-to-day problems of Parliament"; on the other hand, relinking the two positions would give the Prime Minister the protections afforded constitutionally to the Crown Prince.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 17:42:11 ZULU