A presidential affairs ministry statement said that Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan on Friday morning had suffered a stroke. He was born in 1948 and was immediately rushed into surgery. He is said to be in stable condition.
Sheikh Khalifa has had problems with his health and for many years assumed a much lower profile in governmental affairs. Most of the decision making day to day was hand over to Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a half-brother, who is the Abu Dhabi crown prince.
Observers expect there will be a smooth power transition to the crown prince. The nomination of the heir apparent however, would be of interest to business groups and diplomats of the strong western ally that is in control of approximately 10% of all the world’s oil reserves.
While the public face of the UAE’s power is Sheikh Mohommad, Sheikh Khalif is still the chairman of the largest sovereign wealth fund in the country, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the top decision making group for the emirate’s oil, the Supreme Petroleum Council.
The current leader came into power following his father’s death in 2004. His father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan founded the United Arab Emirate.
Pushed along by the current crown prince, UAE has launched development projects in real estate, infrastructure and industry as it seeks to diversify its current economy to match the ambitions of Dubai.
Sheikh Khalifa is liked by his people and has been in charge of balancing the relations between the well to do Abu Dhabi and the members of the seven other emirates in the federation that are not as wealthy.
Abu Dhabi bailed out Dubai, the flashier emirate in 2009 with loans that totaled over $20 billion, which helped to underpin the commercial center for the region’s continuing revival economically.
As the leader of the ruling family in Abu Dhabi, he represents the tribal system that helped to ward off any domestic dissent due to not having enough democracy in the nation, the issue, which provided the Arab Spring spark in several other neighboring nations.