Kuwait began a three-day mourning period yesterday following the death of former emir Sheikh Saad Abdullah al-Sabah, and campaigning for Saturday’s general election was suspended.
Sheikh Saad, 78, who was emir for just nine days, died late on Tuesday after a long illness. He was to be laid to rest early yesterday.
The 274 candidates standing in the legislative election suspended their campaigns for three days, which means no more election rallies will be held before Kuwaitis go to the polls.
Banks, the stock market and most of private sector institutions were also closed.
The government however stressed that the election, called after a new political crisis in the oil-rich emirate, would not be postponed.
Sheikh Saad succeeded to the throne in January 2006 after the death of his predecessor, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah. But he was deposed by parliament after only nine days on health grounds.
He was hailed by Kuwaitis as a “liberation hero” for the key role he played during the occupation of Kuwait by Iraqi troops in August 1990 and the liberation of the emirate by a US-led coalition seven months later.
Born in 1930, Sheikh Saad was the eldest son of the late Sheikh Abdullah al-Salem al-Sabah, the 11th emir of Kuwait, known as the father of independence and the Constitution.
He served as Kuwait’s crown prince for more than 30 years, and as prime minister for 25 years before he relinquished the post in 2003 because of poor health.
In January 1962, Sheikh Saad was appointed interior minister in the first Kuwaiti Cabinet after independence from Britain the previous year. In 1964, he was also put in charge of defense.
He underwent colon surgery in early 1997. He had traveled repeatedly to Britain and the US for tests and treatment as his health deteriorated.
He was married to his immediate cousin Sheikha Latifa. He has one son, Fahd, and three surviving daughters. Two other daughters have died.