The emir of Qatar has transferred power to his son, who is set to become the youngest sovereign of any of the Gulf Arab monarchies.
Former Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani allocated his 33-year-old son Sheikh Tamim as the new leader of the gas-rich nation which is a major diplomatic broker in regional politics, according to AFP.
Tamim is the second son of the emir and his second wife Sheikha Mozah, he has been preparing for years to take the helm of the Western ally.
The British-educated leader, who attended the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, is deputy commander of the armed forces and head of the National Olympic Committee. He also chairs the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee in charge of presenting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Analyst Neil Partrick, an expert on the Gulf, told AFP not to expect any major changes in Qatar despite the handover of power.
“Tamim already has responsibilities for sensitive foreign portfolios among other matters,” said Partrick.
“For Qatari foreign policy, none of this seems likely to produce major change. The young heir apparent Tamim is unlikely to effect major changes without consulting his father.”
Sheikh Hamad, who used Qatar’s gas wealth to drive its modernization, came to power in a bloodless coup in which he overthrew his own father Sheikh Khalifa in June 1995.
A diplomat said that by freely stepping down the 61-year-old emir would “score a first in the Arab world,” where autocratic rulers held power uncontested for decades until the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, reported AFP.
The small Gulf peninsula country holds the world’s third largest gas reserves and produces roughly 77 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year, making it the world’s largest supplier, according to AFP.