To his admirers, Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is a champion of the common man’s struggle against tyranny, and a visionary who turned billions of dollars in energy revenues into strategic international investments.
To his critics, the 61-year-old ruler only pretends to be a friend of the masses, for while he backed Arab Spring revolts against autocracy, he clamped down on freedoms at home.
What both groups tend to agree on is that Sheikh Hamad has managed to turn the tiny Gulf state into a regional powerhouse that punches above its weight in international diplomacy and high-rolling finance.
His vision is expected to continue after he announced on Tuesday that he was stepping down and handing power to his son, Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
The dramatic step is unheard of in a region where, until Arab Spring revolts two years ago, authoritarian rulers usually remained in power for life. The handover cements Qatar’s standing as "the great regional maverick", said Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at The Baker Institute for Public Policy.
The impetus behind Sheikh Hamad's pursuit of the limelight for his country over the past decade, analysts say, was a wish to differentiate Qatar from regional neighbors, especially Sunni powerhouse and rival Saudi Arabia.
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر