Posted by Joshua on Monday, April 16th, 2007
"Why Don't Arab Dictators Declare Themselves Kings?"
April 15, 2007
Of the current 22 members of the Arab League, one can argue that the leaders of 14 have it harder than the other eight. I am referring of course to the form of government that these leaders inherited, usually from their colonial masters. The lucky eight inherited or built monarchies, either quasi-constitutional or absolute. Who are the lucky eight — Morocco, Jordan and the six nations that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The unlucky 14 were bequeathed or transformed themselves into republics, either presidential or parliamentarian. Libya’s Qaddafi was the most innovative. His unique “Jamahirriya” has been successful in permitting him to hold power largely unchallenged since his coup in 1969.
Jordan's quasi-constitutional monarchical system allowed King Hussein to bequeath his son the crown following his death in 1999. In Bahrain, there was little fanfare as the Emir of that tiny monarchy passed the throne to his son after he passed away. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Al-Sauds have it just as easy. Armed with their inherited mode of governing, opposition figures can only watch as the throne is passed from father to son or from one brother to another.
Life is not as simple for the Presidential Republics.
In contrast, when Hafez Assad decided to pick his son Bashar as successor, it was hard for people to comprehend how a presidential republic would allow for one family to monopolize power.
Indeed, those that were dismayed have reason to be. Among current world leaders, only four succeeded their fathers. In DR Congo (Zaire), Joseph Kabila succeeded the assassinated Laurent Kabila. In Togo, Faure Gnassingbe succeeded Gnassingbe Eyadema. In North Korea, Kim Jong Il succeeded Kim Chong-il. It is not easy to inheret power from your father if you live in a republic, but it can be done.
This leads us to ask if any of the non-monarchies in the Arab World are true Republics?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a republic as a state in which supreme power rests in the people and their elected representatives or officers. This popular sovereignty stands in stark contrast to monarchies, in which sovereignty in invested in the king.
In 2005, three Arab nations elected their representatives by national elections: These were Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.
Syria’s example of handing the presidency from father to son has provided a precedent for the remaining 11 nations. The leaders of both Egypt and Libya are looking for ways to hand power over to their sons. Thus far, however, only Syria has pulled the trigger. Given that none of the remaining eleven republics behave as such, their populace seem to be subjected to a charade of fake and silly election cycles that constantly insult their intelligence. Syria’s version of this charade will be on full display during this election season.
The republics of the Arab world are republics in name only. Behind the walls of their presidential palaces, leaders conduct affairs much as their monarchical brothers do. They do not intend to surrender power. Only military coups or U.S. marines can unseat them. Talk of political reform and free elections is just a lip service. In reality, none of the leaders of the eleven republics is likely to surrender power without a fight. Opposition members seem to think that they will succeed in dictating a different outcome. One can only admire the courage of the present crop of reformers and liberals in the Middle East who fight against the region’s current dictators, nevertheless, one cannot be optimistic about their cause. They are fighting a losing battle. The recent experience of Iraq has made it a taboo for opposition members to seek foreign help in fighting their rulers. What is more, Middle Eastern leaders have learnt how to coup proof their regimes, making it next to impossible for military officers to plot their overthrow. The safety measures taken by regional leaders combined with America's failure in Iraq has made it practically impossible to unseat them. The Arab masses have come to view maintaining order and national security as their primary concern. This is the one thing that their dictators can claim to do very well.
This writer has an easy solution that can make our lives much easier:
Why don’t the Arab republics convert to monarchs and put us all out of our