Several media reports that Qatar will see a big change in government leadership this year have surfaced this week. Here’s the latest.
UPDATE | 4:45pm
Reuters is now also reporting that a possible leadership change is coming up in Qatar. Citing anonymous sources, the newswire states:
They said they expected the reshuffle to take one of two courses — either Sheikh Tamim would replace Sheikh Hamad as the prime minister until he takes over as emir when his father eventually steps down, or the current Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmed al-Mahmoud, would become the next prime minister when Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim steps aside.
When asked about the reports, the US and British Embassies in Qatar both declined to comment on the issue.
Qatar has quietly been telling some of its allies about a planned transfer of power among its leadership, the UK-based Telegraph reports.
Referencing anonymous foreign officials, the newspaper states that Qatar’s Emir will cede control of the country to his son, 33-year-old Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, as early as this summer. The Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, is also expected to step down, the report states. It continues:
A prominent British visitor to the gas-rich Gulf state was told of the plans earlier this year and sources said other key states, including the US and Iran, have also been briefed about the succession.
“The plan is to manage a staged handover of power that allows the crown prince to come to the fore,” said one source with knowledge of the discussions. “The stakes are very high because Qatar is at forefront of events in a very sensitive region.”
Rumors that Sheikh Tamim, second son of first lady Sheikha Moza and brother of art world leader Sheikha Al Mayassa, would soon take the reins from his reportedly ailing father have been swirling for at least a year.
They were most recently brought up by the Economist in an op-ed last week.
UPDATE | 10:45am
Michael Stephens, Doha-based analyst for the Royal United Services Institute, told Doha News that his contacts confirm something is afoot, although details are still unclear:
“Having spoken with a number of sources, there is a widespread belief that a change at the top of government is coming. The timing and the personnel are unconfirmed at this point, although it is thought to be the Prime Minister or the Emir who will be stepping down.
It is unlikely that both men would step down at the same time, given how much this would affect the stability of the country.”
As early as last October, the Financial Times noted the rising public profile of the Heir Apparent, crediting several recent initiatives to him. They included salary increases to army personnel, helping to repair diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and overseeing activities of the health, economic and education councils.
The FT also stated:
Sheikh Hamad recently joked about his son’s growing importance with a visiting official, telling him the crown prince was in charge of day-to-day management of the gas-rich Gulf state.
Surely, said the foreign visitor, the emir himself must still be making most decisions and the 32-year-old Sheikh Tamim could not be 100 per cent in charge. “Would you accept 80 per cent?” the emir replied.
If an abdication does indeed take place, analysts told the Telegraph that Qatar will have to work hard to reassure a skittish international community that the country is in good hands.
Credit: Photo by Omar Chatriwala