Speculation is mounting that Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, is planning to step down and instigate a transition of power to his son, 33-year-old Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
The first report in the UK’s Daily Telegraph stated the handover would begin by the end of June and would also involve Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, stepping down at the same time.
However, sources in Qatar believe that despite there being several briefings on the subject there has been no edicts released by the ruling family that give an exact timeframe.
“As far as Qatar rumours go this is about as close to the truth as it gets,” says a senior Qatar-based analyst with knowledge of the ruling family. “It has been known for some time that the emir and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim have been thinking about stepping down, but only the emir’s inner circle knows when this is going to happen. Anyone else is guessing.”
The emir’s health has been an issue over the past few years and he was believed to have undergone a kidney transplant in 2012.
The transition of power is expected to be staged over a period of time to allow Sheikh Tamim to acclimatise to the role before forming a cabinet built around a younger generation of Qataris.
“When the transition does take place, I expect Sheikh Tamim to concentrate more on domestic matters and scale back [Qatar’s] role in international diplomacy,” says the Qatar-based analyst. “There is so much to be done before the  World Cup, that I think it is likely he will concentrate more on these issues than look to be a major presence on the international stage.”
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa has been in power since 1995, following a bloodless coup that involved him seizing power from his father, Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani.