Qatar went through an interesting change int he past few days. The now former emir, sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa al Thani, decided to hand over his power to his son Sheikh Tamim, after 18 years in power. The power transition in Qatar is a surprising move, but welcomed by the population.Sheikh Hamad succeeded to transform his country and transform a lingering economy to a plummeting and powerful one. Hamad took over his country with an 8bn dollar economy and reached, over almost two decades of rule, a 174bn dollar economy, a huge increase in less than twenty years. This incredible increase is due to the exploitation of Qatar’s natural gas reserves, as therel ies under Qatar the seventh biggest reserve, but the country’s oil production equalled to zero before 1995.
This helped transform Qatar into a small but powerful regional economy with incresing influence. Added to that are serveral prestige projects that increased the popularity and international stance of the country. These include the launch of the Al-Jazeera channel that has now as much consumers as BBC or CNN, and Qatar Airways.
Sheikh Hamad initiated a pragmatic policy and opened toward every player – country or group – across the political spectrum, and also played a distinctive role in peace talks in the major regional conflicts. This friendly ties to the US and Iran, and his warplane base, alarmed the neighbouring countries, yet Qatar managed to keep out of major conflicts and maintain a working and friendly relation with the regional countries, although relations with the regime in Syria worsened as Qatar emerged as a supporter of the rebels.
In such an environment, Sheikh Tamim, aged 33, the second son of Sheikh Hamad, will be among the youngest emirs in Qatari history. Sheikh Tamim has been trained for this position since 2003, when his elder brother stepped aside, and he was officially named heir apparent.
The power transition went smooth and without any problems, and the people welcomed the power transition in Qatar. The new emir is said to be well-groomed, polite and having a good diplomatic sense, while also enjoying the support of his father and the royals. The people welcomed the new emir, although there was a sense of loss as well for the beloved Sheikh Hamad, who was seen by all as a fatherly figure, treating his nation like a loving parent and not as a strictly ruling emir. Although people say they trust his choices, there may be a feeling of resent over the departure of the emir, and a little fear for Tamim not being able to live up to the expectations.