The Emir of Qatar's abdication this morning (see text of his speech) is widely seen as a milestone – and rightly so. It breaks the long-standing Arab tradition of leaders who cling to power until the drop, or are forcibly removed from office.
Sheikh Hamad came to power in 1995, removing his father in a palace coup. His father was then 63.
Sheikh Hamad has decided to go a couple of of years earlier – he is now 61 – by voluntarily handing over to his son, Sheikh Tamim.
Sheikh Hamad's decision to step down has certainly set an example, though it's probably one that other Arab rulers will choose not to follow and Qatar still remains under autocratic rule.
Qataris have now begun pledging their allegiance to Sheikh Tamim – not that they have much choice in the matter. Ordinary citizens still have no say in choosing their leader and it appears that the country's first elections for a consultative assembly (not a real parliament) which were due to be held later this year have now been postponed as a result of the transition.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Tuesday, 25 June 2013