Power Transition in Qatar: Through the Eyes of former PM

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Former Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani speaks to Rose about various developments in Qatar since power transition in June 2013 while envisioning himself as a businessman in near future.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani video
Former Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani speaking during World Economic Forum in 2009.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, for the first time since he stepped down as the Qatar’s Prime Minister, spoke to American journalist, Charlie Rose, about the power transition that took place in the country almost a year ago and the reasons for it.

“…if you are reasonable…if you are wise enough, you have to know to give power or step down from the power.” – Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani

The talk covered topics related to the government transition, foreign policy of Qatar and its strained relationships with neighbors.

The former prime minister admitted having “healthy” differences with other senior officials in Qatar while vehemently denying any conflicts with Sheikha Moza, the former first lady and the Emir’s mother.

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“First of all he’s a serious guy. He’s clever -not a playboy. Third thing – he’s been trained by his father.” – Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani

Expressing full support to the new Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the former Qatar Investment Authority Chairman explained the reason for stepping away from power.

“If you are wise enough, you have to know to give power or step down from the power,” he said adding that one cannot perform throughout the life with same vigor.

Speaking highly about Sheikh Tamim, Hamad said,

“First of all he’s a serious guy. He’s clever -not a playboy. Third thing – he’s been trained by his father.”

He believes that the Emir during the past four years has done extremely well and represents the right choice as a leader.

Reacting to the international attention Qatar has garnered for its labor treatment, Al Thani said,

“There may be some mistakes – but I can tell you during our time, and now, especially, the government is working hard to do what is needed to be done to have a good standard.”

He was quite skeptical about the international outcry about labor living conditions in Qatar and hinted if the international focus had any political angle to it because the country is hosting the 2022 world cup.

Commenting on the regional role of Qatar in international arena, Hamad gave a fitting reply to the interviewer’s remark about the country “punching above its weight” by saying “you can punch as much as you think you weigh.”

“..after one year I discover that I was almost slave when I was in power..” – – Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani

He reiterated that Qatar treated the countries that have witnessed revolutions in the region equally and stood by people’s choice. A case in point would be the support for Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which was a democratically elected government, although he does not support the radical party as an individual.

Sharing his thoughts about recent Gulf-wide disputes, he called for healthy disagreement within the region and agreed that maintaining good ties with its immediate neighbors is Qatar’s top priority.

He also affirmed that Qatar would not like to see Washington in trouble and that majority Qataris have no issues with the US military base in their country, which also happens to be the largest American installation in the region.

He emphasized Qatar and other oil-revenue dependent countries to plan their resources carefully in event of oil importing countries like USA becoming energy independent.

Al Thani, on personal front, hinted that coming from a businessmen family, he would eventually settle down as a businessman in future.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former Emir of Qatar, had handed over power to his Harrow educated son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in a rare peaceful transition earlier in June 2013.

“The time has come to open a new page in the journey of our nation that would have a new generation carry the responsibilities … with their innovative ideas,” the 61-year- old Sheikh had said then.

In a short speech on state television, the Sheikh said,

“I address you today to inform you that I will transfer power to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. I am fully confident that he is qualified for the responsibility and is trustworthy.”

The transition was also marked by stepping down of the then Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, who gave the first interview to Charlie Rose following a political sabbatical till now.

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