KUWAIT, (Reuters) – Kuwait’s ailing emir will abdicate on Tuesday just over a week after assuming power, ending a succession crisis in the major oil-producing state, ruling family sources said.
They said Sheikh Saad al-Abdulla al-Sabah, who is 76 and in poor health, would step down in favour of Kuwait’s powerful Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.
The government had asked parliament to meet on Tuesday to decide on Sheikh Saad’s ability to rule — hours before the ailing emir was scheduled to take his oath of office — but mediation efforts led to a settlement, sources said.
The ruling family was expected to release a statement on its decision on Tuesday, they added.
“Everything is finished, thank God. What is important is that the crisis has been resolved,” one ruling family source told Reuters.
The poor health of both Sheikh Saad and the late emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, meant that Sheikh Sabah had already been running Kuwait’s day-to-day affairs for four years.
He has won support from many in the ruling family, especially his own clan, family sources said, but by taking over from Sheikh Saad, who became emir on Jan. 15, he would interrupt a long tradition of alternating power between the two rival branches of Kuwait’s al Sabah dynasty.
There are no political differences between the two wings and Sheikh Sabah was expected to maintain Kuwait’s oil policy and the pro-Western stance of the country which holds about 10 percent of the world’s crude reserves.
But the succession crisis had forced parliament to put off indefinitely regular sessions, including a debate on an $8.5 billion plan to boost oil output with the help of foreign firms.
The ruling family doyen voiced his support for Sheikh Sabah.
“His Highness Sheikh Saad wishes to rest and he has full confidence in Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad,” Sheikh Salem al-Ali al-Sabah, was quoted as saying by leading daily al-Qabas.
Sheikh Sabah and the late emir hail from the family’s Jaber branch which holds several key government ministries, while Sheikh Saad is from the Salem wing, whose only other cabinet post is that of foreign minister.
The cabinet swiftly named Sheikh Saad emir last week to avert family rifts and reassure investors about the country’s oil policies and energy sector operations.
Three international consortia led by BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron are competing for Project Kuwait.
It has been debated for more than a decade, with some lawmakers opposing the project, arguing foreign energy firms should not be allowed into the lucrative upstream sector.
The project aims to raise output at the four major oilfields to 900,000 barrels per day (bpd).