Kuwait’s emir undergoes surgery, crown prince assumes some of powers

Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah assumes some of the emir’s duties until ‘health event is over’.
Sunday 19/07/2020
A file picture shows Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah (C) in the Saudi capital Riyadh during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit on December 9, 2018. (AFP)
A file picture shows Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah (C) in the Saudi capital Riyadh during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit on December 9, 2018. (AFP)

KUWAIT--Kuwait’s 91-year old Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah underwent successful surgery on Sunday morning, his office said, after having been admitted to hospital on Saturday for medical checks.

Sheikh Sabah has ruled Kuwait since 2006. His office, in a statement carried by state news agency KUNA, did not specify what kind of surgery he underwent.

The emir’s designated-successor, Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah, took over some of the ruler’s constitutional duties on Saturday temporarily.

Last year, Sheikh Sabah was admitted to hospital in the United States while on an official visit there, after suffering what his office described as “a health setback” in Kuwait in August. He returned to the Gulf Arab state in October.

The state-run KUNA news agency had described Sheikh Sabah’s hospitalization Saturday as “medical checks,” citing a statement from the country’s royal court. Several hours later, KUNA published a second report saying that 83-year-old Crown Prince Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah had assumed some of Sheikh Sabah’s powers temporarily.

A copy of the ministerial decree posted by Kuwait’s official gazette, Kuwait Al-Youm, said the crown prince would be empowered for “the duration of a surgical procedure until the health event is over.”

The emir’s illness comes at a sensitive and complicated period in Kuwait because of the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic as well as the financial and economic difficulties that the country is facing due to the decline in oil prices.

The emir plays a key role in the existing system in Kuwait and has wide powers that guarantee the political, economic and security stability in the country.

Analysts have pointed out that the emir’s illness usually triggers power struggles within the ruling family in Kuwait, which are at times reflected in media and political battles in parliament and elsewhere, including in courts.

The 91-year-old emir has ruled Kuwait, a US ally and OPEC oil producer, since 2006 and steered its foreign policy for more than 50 years.

Kuwait, a nation home to 4.1 million people, has the world’s sixth-largest known oil reserves.

Kuwait’s central bank governor issued a statement on Saturday, after news of the emir’s hospitalisation, stressing the strength and stability of the dinar currency.

S&P Global Ratings on Friday revised Kuwait’s outlook to ‘negative’ from ‘stable’, saying it expects the country’s main liquidity buffer, the General Reserve Fund, to be insufficient to cover the state budget deficit.

The government has been trying to bolster its finances which have been hit by low oil prices and the novel coronavirus pandemic, and has been rapidly running down the General Reserve Fund.