Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Transition of Power

So today His Highness Sheikh Hamad, the former Emir, gave a speech announcing his abdication in favour of his son Sheikh Tamim. A translation of his speech can be found on Al Jazeera's website or dohanews.co, but the main reason was his desire to transfer power to the younger generation who would have innovative ideas and be able to move the country forward. It is encompassed by a saying by the 4th Caliph, Ali bin Ali Taleb, which Sheikh Hamad quoted as part of his speech:

“Teach your children other than that what you were taught; as they are created for a time other than yours.”

With his announcement that he will be abdicating Sheikh Tamim essentially became the Emir. Apparently Sheikh Tamim has to make a vow to serve his nation but once that is done he can be considered the Emir. I'm guessing that has occurred already.

And that was that. Qatar does not have crowns or other symbols of office that have to be bestowed to symbolize the handling over of power so there was no need for any formal ceremony. Sheikh Tamim is now the Emir of Qatar.

Today the streets were quiet except for the area near my place as it is close to the Diwan (essentially the main Government palace). Around the Diwan there were plenty of police and security on hand as hundreds and hundreds of Qatari men came to the Diwan to pay their respects to Sheikh Hamad and give their congratulations and pledges of support to the new Emir. Qatar TV showed lots of footage of Qatari men in bishts one after the other shaking Sheikh Hamad’s hand then Sheikh Tamim’s hand, sometimes kissing it, and sometimes doing other forms of Arab greeting (like touching noses).

I met with some Qatari friends today and not surprisingly it was the main topic of conversation. One had already been to the Diwan and others were planning to go. I did learn some interesting things during the discussion:

I asked if there was an equivalent ceremony for ladies, where ladies would go to give their congratulations to the new Emir’s wives. No, there is no separate meeting for women.

My previous post noted how rare it is for abdications to occur but that was incorrect. While abdicating in favour of the Heir Apparent is rare in the rest of the Gulf it is not uncommon for the Al Thani rulers. It has happened at least twice before in recent times, for example His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani abdicated in 1949, and His Highness Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah Al Thani abdicated in 1960 to give power to his son.

All agreed that there will not be any major sudden changes in policy, with the exception of a cabinet reshuffle, as Sheikh Tamim had already been making many of the decisions in the last few years so he was already involved with much of what is planned for the future.

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