Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, considered the de-facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, was elected as the new president of the oil-rich nation on Saturday after his half-brother and former ruler Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin al-Nahyan passed away yesterday (May 13) at the age of 73.
The new president will hold the office for a five-year term before being eligible for re-election.
The 61-year-old strongman was elected by the Federal Supreme Council, state news agency WAM said, becoming the third ruler of the oil-rich country founded by his father, Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, in 1971.
Sheikh Mohammed had been calling the shots ever since Sheikh Khalifa’s health deteriorated following a stroke in 2014.
Under Sheikh Mohammed, The UAE has put a man in space, sent a probe to Mars and opened its first nuclear reactor, while using its oil-funded clout to develop a more assertive foreign policy.
Here are some interesting facts about Sheikh Mohammed.
Sheikh Mohamed was born on March 11, 1961, in Al Ain. He is the third son of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the nation and the first president of the UAE.
At the age of 18, he joined the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where he is said to have undergone training in armour, helicopter flying, tactical flying and paratroops, according to Khaleej Times newspaper.
After graduating in April 1979, he returned home to the UAE to join the Officers’ Training Course in Sharjah.
He has held a number of roles in the UAE military, from that of officer in the Amiri Guard (the UAE’s elite security force) and pilot in the UAE Air Force, to the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
According to the local media, Mohamed, who is fondly called ‘MBZ’ is credited with develop the UAE Armed Forces in terms of strategic planning, training, organisational structure and promoting defence capabilities.
Hawkish foreign policy
Closely allied with Saudi Arabia and United States, UAE, under Sheik Mohamed, has emerged as a leader of a reshaped Middle East since the retreat of traditional powers and the reduced involvement of US and forging ties with Israel and joining a war against Iran-backed militants in Yemen.
He has also bolstered the military might of the UAE which, coupled with its oil wealth and business hub status, extended Emirati influence in the region and beyond.
He was also named as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2019 by TIME magazine.
Views on the Russia-Ukraine war
According to the Wall Street Journal, after Russia invaded Ukraine, Sheikh Mohamed reportedly refused to take phone calls of US President Joe Biden when the latter was trying to build international support for Ukraine and encourage greater oil production to contain a surge in oil prices.
(With inputs from agencies)