Kuwait's 83-year-old Emir nominates 80-year-old Crown Prince

  • Signals policy continuity, not a more aggressive push for domestic structural reform or generational transfer of power
  • While parliament should ratify appointment today, potential opposition from Islamists, reformers, and Al-Salem family
  • We remain cautious on Kuwait equities (expensive value and low growth) post the 1 December 2020 accession to MSCI EM
Kuwait's 83-year-old Emir nominates 80-year-old Crown Prince

The Crown Prince nomination in Kuwait signals policy continuity rather than a change to more aggressive reform or inter-generational succession. We remain cautious on Kuwait equities (expensive and low growth) after the inflows related to EM inclusion complete (1 December 2020).

Emir Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (who is aged 83 and acceded to the throne at the end of September 2020) has nominated Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (aged 80, deputy chief of the Kuwait National Guard since 2004, with a lower profile in public politics than other members of the royal family) to the position of Crown Prince, according to a report from state news agency KUNA on 7 October.

The Kuwait Parliament is scheduled to vote on whether to approve the nomination today (8 October). Scheduled parliamentary elections are likely to take place in late November or early December 2020.

At first glance, we see the following implications:

  1. While we expect parliament to ratify the appointment today, there is a risk, in future, of opposition to the appointment from Islamist members of parliament (whether in the current parliament or after the elections later this year), reformist MPs who may have hoped for a fresh approach from the top and new faces in the Emir's appointed Cabinet, and members of the royal family from the Al-Salem side (which will now see three Emirs in a row from the Al-Ahmad side, in contrast to the tradition, prior to 2006, of alternation of the Emir between these two branches.

  2. The appointment avoids choosing among rivals from the younger generation of princes (who are mainly in the 50 to 70-year-old bracket and matured in the post-independence era after 1961) in contrast to recent successions in Qatar and Saudi. This likely perpetuates the unresolved rivalry behind the scenes among the younger potential successors.

  3. Policy continuity is likely both on the foreign side (remaining as close as possible to the US and persisting – with thus far futile efforts – to reconcile the divide within the GCC between Saudi-UAE-Bahrain and Qatar) and on the domestic front (gradualist reform at the very slow pace dictated by parliament's obstructionism).

Related reading

Kuwait’s crown passes to 83-year-old successor amid fiscal challenges, (Sep 2020)

Kuwait: Emir (91) in hospital again, partially hands over to Crown Prince (83) (July 2020)

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