Kuwait has recently acquired a new ruler who is now tasked with rectifying its preexisting issues.

Coming into office in his 80s, the next ruler of Kuwait will face the same political dysfunction that has plagued the country’s economy for years, much like his predecessor.

The success or failure of 83-year-old Emir Sheikh Mishaal Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in reviving the paralysed OPEC member state would depend on the outcomes of the parallels and contrasts in this succession.

Sheikh Mishaal, the crown prince of Kuwait, has shown support for new faces in the role and will select his successor in a year after consulting with important members of the royal family. He is now free to participate in the establishment of any new administration. However, it is unlikely that Kuwait would follow the lead of Saudi Arabia and the UAE and transfer power to a younger generation. Crown princes in Kuwait are required to trace their ancestry back to Mubarak Al-Kabeer, who died in 1915 and was the modern-day founder of Kuwait.

Age shouldn’t be a factor in determining the next level of leadership’s ability to deliver, as the responsibility for delivery lies with the crown prince and government choices. With a new cabinet likely to be established, Sheikh Mishaal’s candidate will need parliament’s approval, and his pick must be compatible with the incoming prime minister. Sheikh Mishaal harshly criticised the elected legislators and the chosen cabinet in his October inaugural address to parliament for falling short of expectations.

Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the half-brother of three previous rulers, has been serving as interim head of state since November 2021. Sheikh Mishaal, the eldest of seven children, will now be considered a legitimate monarch, and observers will be watching for clues as to his leadership style.

Despite not making major shifts in energy or foreign policy, there is mounting demand for political reform in Kuwait. The 50-member legislature is controlled by the opposition, which is loosely organised but exerts its influence. Populist independents frequently fill parliament and conflict with ministers they believe are too lenient on corruption. Kuwait’s political system is more liberal than that of other Gulf states, but all laws still require the emir’s approval.

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