Dubai: Qatar`s ruler formally handed power on Tuesday to his 33-year-old son, capping a carefully crafted transition that puts a new generation in charge of the Gulf nation`s vast energy wealth and rising political influence after the upheavals of the Arab Spring.
The 61-year-old emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, used a televised address to note repeatedly the importance of shifting leadership to more youthful hands an indirect acknowledgment of the demands for reforms opened by the uprisings that have swept the region.
Qatar has been a player in the regional turmoil, using its riches to support rebels in Libya and now in Syria. Qatar also has broken ranks with other Gulf states to offer help to the Muslim Brotherhood, which rose to political dominance in Egypt. Its influence is further spread by the powerful Al-Jazeera TV network, which it founded.
The Western-backed Gulf Arab dynasties have managed to remain in power, but they have displayed their insecurity by launching crackdowns that have included arrests over alleged anti-state plots and social media posts deemed insulting to the leadership.
"The future lies ahead of you, the children of this homeland, as you usher into a new era where young leadership hoists the banner," the outgoing emir said as he announced the anticipated transition to the British-educated crown prince, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
As part of taking on the mantle, Sheik Tamim will begin putting together a new government that may be in direct contrast to the old guard leaders across the Gulf.
Qatar has given no official explanation on the transition, which had been widely expected for weeks, but Sheik Hamad is believed to be suffering from chronic health problems.