Kuwait’s emir appoints Sheikh Mohammed Sabah Al Salem as Prime Minister

Sheikh Mohammed was born in 1955 and is the fourth son of the 12th Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah

Sheikh Mohammed Sabah Al Salem in London. Alamy
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Kuwait's emir Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Sabah has appointed Sheikh Mohammed Sabah Al Salem as the country’s next prime minister.

The emir tasked him with forming a new cabinet, according to a royal decree.

Departing prime minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, the late emir's son, handed in the cabinet's resignation following the inaugural address of Sheikh Meshal, in which he criticised what he said was “harm to the interest of the people and the country”.

The new Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed, was formerly the minister of foreign affairs and deputy prime minister, but resigned from both roles in 2011, citing anti-corruption, and has been out of politics for more than a decade.

“The return of Dr Mohammed to government has been a popular demand for some time,” said Bader Al Saif, Assistant Professor of History at Kuwait University.

“The emir indicated in his first speech that the leadership is not far from people, listening to them. This is a fine example of that,” said Mr Al Saif.

Sheikh Mohammed was born in 1955 and is the fourth son of the 12th Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah, who ruled Kuwait from 1965 until 1977.

According to his official biography page, Sheikh Mohammed holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Claremont College in California and a PhD in Economics and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. He was also a visiting fellow at Oxford University from 2012-2013.

Sheikh Mohammed's undergraduate thesis, Criticial Analysis of Inflation in Kuwait, won the Salvatori Scholar Prize in 1978, his biography said.

Sheikh Mohammed’s mother, Sheikha Noura Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, also descends from the ruling family. He is the brother of Sheikh Salem Sabah Al Salem, a former Minister of Defence.

Sheikh Mohammed was appointed to several government positions in the early 1990s, including in 1993 when he served as Kuwait's ambassador to the US until 2001.

He was then appointed minister of state for foreign affairs from 2001 until 2003, before serving as minister of foreign affairs between July 2003 and October 2011.

He was appointed deputy prime minister in February 2006, and served while also minister of foreign affairs.

He resigned from both roles in October 2011, citing a commitment to anti-corruption.

Over the past decade, Sheikh Mohammed has chosen to stay out of politics, focusing on his role as chairman of the Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah Foundation, which is named after his father.

Sheikh Mohammed’s appointment on Thursday marks the first time in almost 21 years that Kuwait's Prime Minister is from the Al Salem branch of the royal family since the late Sheikh Al Abdullah Al Salem resigned from the role in 2003.

“Widely popular before today’s news for integrity and record, his popularity is expected to increase in the next few months in line with skyrocketing popularity of all incoming PMs at the beginning of their tenure. But popularity alone will not do it,” said Mr Al Saif.

Emir Sheikh Meshal is faced with the task of pulling the country out of long-standing political paralysis and reforming a bloated public sector.

“We emphasised in our previous speeches that there are obligations that must be carried out by the two authorities for the benefit of the nation and the citizens, and we did not see any change or course correction,” the Emir told the National Assembly.

Kuwait has previously faced political uncertainty amid disputes between opposition politicians and senior government officials, including members of the ruling family who served in previous cabinets.

Updated: January 05, 2024, 5:20 AM