Qatar's Amir set to hand over power to son

Qatar's Amir set to hand over power to son

24 June 2013

The Amir of Qatar, His Highness Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, 61, informed members of the ruling family on Monday of his decision to hand over power to Crown Prince Shaikh Tamim after a meeting in Doha, the Qatari-owned television channel Al Jazeera said.

A Gulf official told Reuters the announcement of the transfer of power would be made later on Monday. The royal court said in a statement that the Amir would make a speech later and Tuesday would be a national holiday.

Qatari political analyst Mohammed Al Misfer told Al Jazeera that he did not expect major changes in the event of a handover, adding that Shaikh Tamim was already involved in running the country under his father’s direction.

Diplomats said earlier this month that the Amir was considering an orderly transfer of power that would probably begin with the departure of the powerful Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Shaikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, 53.

Arab and Western diplomats said they understood the motive was the Amir’s desire to have a smooth transition to a younger generation.

Shaikh Tamim is 33, young compared to other Gulf rulers. Shaikh Hamad bin Jassim has been Prime Minister since 2007 and has played a central role in positioning Qatar as a regional power broker. He is also vice-chairman of the board of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), a position he is expected to retain.

The Amir has elevated Qatar’s international profile in recent years through the launch and development of the Al Jazeera television network, as well as its successful bid to host the 2022 soccer World Cup tournament.

Qatar has played a substantial role in promoting Arab Spring protests, lending significant support to rebels who toppled and killed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and to a continuing uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

It has also played host to a delegation of the Afghan Taleban, which opened an office in Doha last week in preparation for expected talks with the United States about how to end a 12-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.

Eman Ebed Alkadi of the Eurasia Group consultants wrote that she did not expect Qatari domestic priorities or its foreign policies to change significantly with a change of ruler.

“Tamim has controlled key policies in Qatar for some time, and shares his father’s views on political development in Qatar and economic diversification,” Alkadi wrote.

National budgets had been agreed up until 2016-2017, Alkadi said, and with preparations for the World Cup in full swing, much change in domestic momentum was unlikely.

When he took power at age 44, the Amir was among the youngest leaders in the region.

Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of LNG, an achievement that set the country on a track to achieve double-digit economic growth for several consecutive years, during a time when many Western nations were mired in recession.

This spurred a population boom, with inhabitants surging from 500,000 to 1.9 million in the last decade.


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