Qatar’s PM steps down as country sees leadership change

by  — 27 June 2013

Qatari Prime and Foreign Minister HE Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani steps down and Qatari cabinet reshuffled following Emiri leadership change.

HE Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani stepped down soon after the leadership change in Qatar. (Image by Euromoney)

Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister HE Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani this week offered his resignation to newly appointed Qatari leader HH Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who duly accepted, and in turn announced his cabinet reshuffle, including a prime ministerial replacement in HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former minister of state for interior affairs, who now also becomes the Interior Minister.

The former Heir Apparent, now HH the Emir Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani, officially assumed his new position yesterday, following the abdication of HH Sheikh the Father Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani earlier this week, an unprecedented step in Gulf states. Though the announcement of the change in Qatari leadership came suddenly, months of rumours of an imminent change, augmented by numerous reports in foreign media in past weeks, meant it was hardly a surprise to observers both inside and outside Qatar. 

The official announcement by the outgoing Emir came with a unplanned public holiday, during which Qataris celebrated and took to social media in large numbers to proclaim their support for their new leader. 

Yesterday local markets also rallied slightly, somewhat allying fears that this change in leadership could perhaps negatively effect the economy of Qatar, which as most familiar with the small gulf nation will know is one of the most robust in the world, thanks to massive natural gas reserves.

Indeed, there has been much speculation what the change in leadership could mean for Qatar with a 33-year-old British-educated new Emir, now the youngest head of state in the Arab world. However during his inaugural speech yesterday the new Emir ostensibly underlined that it would be business as usual for Qatar, and that the country will not stray from its developmental path, as outlined in its 2030 National Vision, nor from its current outward economic and diplomatic courses. 

With many well-publicised investments, in the United Kingdom and France in particular, and involvement in many regional political machinations, though small in population, Qatar has emerged as a highly influential Arab State. Many attribute Qatar’s influence to its disproportionately vast hydrocarbon wealth, and whilst this is partly true, it is also due to the nature of Qatari people, who under the leadership of HH Sheikh the Father Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, have forged a state known for its involvement in the resolution of political differences across the Middle East and North Africa region.

However, in recent months Qatar, which maintains reasonably friendly relations with entities as disparate as the Afghanistan Taliban (who opened an office in the Qatari capital of Doha recently) and the United States, has come under some criticism in some quarters for its role in certain regional conflicts. Managing this legacy will be of course but one challenge for the new leadership of the country, as well as on the domestic front, where it will have to continue to manage the radical growth and development of the country, as it prepares to meet its ambitious aims of diversifying its economy post-2030 beyond gas and oil – and ensuring it is ready in good time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. 

There is no doubt however, while there will be challenges, the new Emir of Qatar has been well-prepared to take charge (and has his father for guidance), and that this latest development in Qatar’s leadership history can only be a positive step for this small but fiercely proud and wealthy Arab nation.

Footnote: HE Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah has replaced HE Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani as Foreign Minister of Qatar.

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