death at 84 of Sheikh Al Khalifa, the world’s oldest prime minister

Cars drive past a giant poster of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, who died on November 11, 2020, in Manama, Bahrain.

He held the record for longevity among sitting heads of government. Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, who had served as prime minister since Bahrain’s independence in 1971, died Wednesday, November 11, at the age of 84, state media reported.

“The Royal Court mourns His Royal Highness … who died this morning at the Mayo Clinic in the United States”Bahraini news agency BNA reported, adding that the country will observe a week of official mourning. According to BNA, once the body has been repatriated, the funeral of Sheikh Ben Salman Al Khalifa will be limited to a certain number of relatives, due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

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Prince Al Khalifa was a central and controversial figure during his tenure. He was very unpopular with the Shia community in this Sunni-ruled kingdom. His departure was demanded by the Shiite demonstrators who had occupied the Pearl Square in Manama for a month in February 2011.

The protesters demanded a true constitutional monarchy and political reforms. The uprising had been crushed in mid-March after the entry of Gulf troops, especially Saudi ones, to protect vital installations.

Hard line of the diet

Praised for his leading role in the economy of this Gulf archipelago, Sheikh Al Khalifa has been accused by his detractors of embodying the regime’s hard line by opposing any political reform and systematically repressing dissidents.

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Known to be close to Saudi Arabia, this irremovable politician has adopted the greatest firmness against the protest movement of the Shiites who demonstrated to demand changes in favor of the “Arab Spring” in 2011.

Since then, the kingdom has been shaken by sporadic unrest fueled, according to the authorities, by “Violent terrorist groups linked to Iran”, which Tehran denies. The main opposition movements were dissolved and dozens of dissidents were imprisoned and stripped of their nationality.

Good relations with the United States

Prince Al Khalifa worked for many years to make Bahrain – which, unlike other Gulf monarchies, has only modest oil resources – a regional financial center.

He also strengthened relations with the United States, to which his government granted military facilities at the time of independence. Bahrain is home to the Ve US fleet and a British military base.

The repression led by Sheikh Al Khalifa’s regime, denounced by human rights organizations, has not endangered the relationship between Manama and Washington.

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