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A Year on the Assassinated Democracy.

Byline: Abdullah Iskandar

Most of the authorities in Arab countries have not yet been able to establish a state-nation, a prerequisite for a good citizenship. Hence, the relation between the authorities and the people is not governed by trust, but rather by doubt and suspicions. Consequently, all elections-based Arab experiences have been unable to usher in democratization, at which point ballot boxes breed the ruling authority, and rotation surfaces as a natural, rather required, element.

However, and as the developments of the ending year have shown, the state-nation crisis persists as its two poles (authority and opposition) are still in a state of denial. In addition to invalidating the function of elections and the mechanisms of democracy, this has allowed the authorities to monopolize decision-making in such a way that would most often circumvent the results of ballot boxes.

This is not just about the desire of the authorities to monopolize power, but also about the lack of trust with the opposition, which is no less yearning to monopolize power amidst the persistent crisis. In most cases, power feeds on the opposition's monopolistic trend and its accusation of undermining stability (i.e. reaching power) in order to justify its monopolistic steps. Hence, rotation is invalidated, so is the good governance of citizen affairs.

During the ending year, the assassinated democracy in Arab countries has suffered a direct military coup that overthrew an elected president and introduced constitutional changes for lifelong presidency; constitutional formulas that hinder free competition and keep the president in power through seemingly pluralistic elections that lack credibility; new laws that limit the action of opposing parties; emergency laws that allow military courts to look into political matters, most of which are of questionable validity; and attempts to nullify the rule of the elected majority through force and weapons.

When power becomes the focal point of the authorities, less interest is shown to the matters of the state and the citizens. The living conditions deteriorate so does the state's performance, which is almost reduced to the security apparatuses. As education is no longer able to prepare working generations, development declines and unemployment prevails. With agriculture deteriorating, production capacities are curtailed and poverty increases. Hence, the country enters a vicious cycle of suspicion. On the one hand, the state questions the citizens demanding decent living conditions, and on the other hand, the citizens are suspicious of the State's serious concern about their affairs.

In addition to the obsession with power, the relations among Arab authorities also lack trust, which hinders economic integration contrary to what the situation should be among neighboring countries notwithstanding the endless agreements signed in the framework of the Arab League.

The difficulties of integration among neighboring Arab countries - or those geographically linked - are largely related to internal obsessions. Sometimes, the requested cooperation and complementarity turn into enmity and conflicts that also hinder relations with neighbors and aggravate the economic and social crises as well as the misfortune of internal democracy. The hostility with the neighboring country then becomes a kind of internal mechanism that complicates solutions to regional problems - be they serious or provoked. The authorities use this to justify increased control over internal politics, in the name of facing the external danger.

2008 Media Communications Group

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Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Dec 28, 2008
Previous Article:The Arab World's Grim Prospects for 2009.
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