The changing of the guard

05 November 2004
Within 24 hours of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan's death, his eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, had been appointed ruler of Abu Dhabi and the president of the UAE. The appointment of the 56-year-old crown prince as Abu Dhabi ruler took place with immediate effect following the news of his father's death. The next day, a meeting of the Supreme Council, which brings together the rulers of the seven emirates, unanimously elected Sheikh Khalifa as the new president.

Given that the UAE had only ever had one president, Sheikh Zayed, and as a result there was no precedent for selecting a new one, the meeting represented something of a watershed in UAE politics. Nevertheless, Sheikh Khalifa had been widely expected to succeed his father, being the ruler of Abu Dhabi - the richest emirate and UAE capital - as well as an experienced statesman: in recent years, he had frequently stood in for Sheikh Zayed at meetings at home and abroad.

Preparations for the post-Zayed era have been gathering pace over the last 12 months. The appointment of Sheikh Zayed's third son, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, as Abu Dhabi's deputy crown prince, was seen as the final piece in the emirate's succession jigsaw. Recent months have also witnessed the younger generation taking on a more prominent economic role, with the Department of Economy and ADDAR Real Estate Services making their mark.

One of Sheikh Zayed's final acts was to issue a decree on 1 November appointing a new federal cabinet. The biggest reshuffle for over a decade saw an injection of younger blood and the appointment of the UAE's first female minister. However, it will be a little while before the new ministers will be able to get their feet under their desks. A week-long mourning period for Sheikh Zayed followed by the week-long Eid holiday means that government agencies are not expected to reopen until 20 November.

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