Problems on hold
Truly, the countries of our region, and the Third World they belong to, have brilliantly defied all political and economic theories the application of which supposedly leads peoples to freedom, justice, power rotation, fair wealth distribution, prosperity, and happiness.
We were told that monarchic rule brings in a ruling class that counts itself superior to the people, lords over them, exploits their wealth, monopolises power and inherits it generation after generation. On the other hand, republican rule is the rule of the people for the people; it brings in an elected ruler from among the people, able to share the people’s pains and hopes and work for their benefit then leaves the post to another who would come through the ballot box. We were told that monarchic rule knows nothing of democracy and is given to wield authority over its subjects who should be happy enough to live under that monarch and sing his praises. Republican rule, however, sees people living on their land, controlling it, possessing its wealth, and having the final say in all legislation, laws and regulations that govern their lives. We were told that monarchic rule implies long-lasting kingdom and authority, whereas republican rule implies short-lived authority and power rotation. We were told that capitalism opens the door wide to honour individual interests above public interest, and allows the emergence of tycoons who control the destiny of the working class so that the rich get richer and the poor poorer and more miserable. Socialism, on the other hand, puts in place just limits to stem the ferocity of unchecked capitalism, guarantees the working people’s share in property and decision making, as well as their rights to education, health care and social security.
Above was just a sample of the political and economic theories we were taught and believed in. Yet, did these theories prove any success in our Arab region? A look at the suffering of the peoples of our region throughout the last century, and especially during the last two decades, refutes all the theories and obliterates all what we learned, proving that no political or economic system is immune to being corrupted, losing its way, or tyrannising the people if no checks and balances are put in place to make it subject to accountability, supervision, and change. Top among these checks are guarantees for peaceful power rotation that ban forceful, long-lasting authority.
It is no secret that the monarchies in our region are stable, and work for the advancement, stability, and prosperity of their peoples. True, the level of democratic practice varies among these monarchies, but the standard of living, public services, growth plans, and stability and development indicators are all on the rise. On the other hand, how did the republics fare? The miserable reality in all of them was that some military force seized power under the pretext of revolting against a tyrannical rule, promised the people a new dawn of reform, freedom, and justice then, once it held a firm grip on power, turned its back on all its promises. Under the pretence of protecting the revolution, it consolidated its authority and turned into a dictatorship, strangled freedoms and did away with all opposition, democracy, and power rotation. It abolished all legislation that placed time limits on ruling terms, and produced fake scenarios of repeated re-elections.
The dream of socialism, the people owning their wealth, sharing in administering their resources and reaping the fruit of their investment, turned into a nightmare. Wealth, resources, and property were seized by the ruling few, and the people were left to suffer need, despair and inferior living standards. With no freedom or opposition, any criticism went unsaid, but the silent protest grew into pent-up wrath that exploded and broke its chains in the face of the tyrannical power that had one day claimed it came to break the chains.
This scenario has repeatedly recurred in our region. We saw it take place with Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, in Algeria, and Omar al-Bashir in Sudan. We might see more of this scenario as long as those in power do not heed the lesson. The common factor among these figures is that they were no monarchs, yet they made themselves de-facto monarchs with a God-given right to rule and to be succeeded by their children.
If the rulers have not learned the lesson, have the people learned it?