Bahrain’s Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the world’s longest serving prime minister, has died at the age of 84.
Prince Khalifa, who took office after Bahrain gained independence in 1971, had been receiving treatment at a hospital in the US, according to the country’s state-run news agency.
He was one of the world’s longest-serving prime ministers who led his island nation’s government for decades and survived the 2011 Arab Spring protests that demanded his ouster over corruption allegations.
He said the Arab Spring had brought only “death, chaos and destruction”, and denied claims that he had blocked political reform efforts in Bahrain.
His power and wealth could be seen everywhere in this small nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.
His official portrait hung for decades on walls alongside the country’s ruler.
He had his own private island where he met foreign dignitaries, complete with a marina and a park that had peacocks and gazelle roam its grounds.
The prince represented an older style of Gulf leadership, one that granted patronage and favors for support of the Sunni Al Khalifa family.
That style would be challenged in the 2011 protests by the island’s Shiite majority and others, who demonstrated against him over long-running corruption allegations surrounding his rule.
The Sunni Muslim-ruled state has continued to clamp down on dissent since security forces crushed the uprising nine years ago. The protests were led by the Shia majority community, which has complained of discrimination.
Though less powerful and frailer in recent years, his machinations still drew attention in the kingdom as a new generation now jostles for power.
Analysts say the choice of his successor will signal whether Bahrain, which recently agreed to normalise relations with Israel, is looking to chart a new course.