The 14th ordinary session of the assembly of the African Union which took place between 25/01 and 02/02 in Addis Ababa reminded me of the interesting positions of the Arab states leaders in the African rulers longevity ranking.
We can indeed find three of them in the top 10 with Libyan Muammar Gaddafi (1st), Egyptian Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. And if we consider the Algerian ruling system specificity (same people behind a changeable president) and the Moroccan monarchy (with different kings) we can safely add them to this top 10 list.
These regimes are still in power despite the will and hopes of their populations, and the means they use to stay in charge have little to do with democracy. But for some reason, these rulers always seek legitimacy arguments. I bet it is because they feel for their peoples and want to ease the pain their presence created and nourishes. And by providing such ingredients to the populations, they help them feel better and happily accept to follow these leaders they never chose. Such arguments could even have the surprising effect of turning parts of the populations into genuine supporters of these leaders.
Therefore, I decided to organise a sort of contest of the best legitimacy arguments. I must warn you though, I don’t know much about the internal affairs of most of these states, so it’s not advised to take the results too seriously.
Number 5: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
I gave his case a 2 minutes thinking but couldn’t find anything significant. May be the women conditions which is considered as the best in the region, but it’s more Bourguiba’s achievement. The economic situation of Tunisia doesn’t really legitimate a 23 years long government, does it?
Anyways, Ezzine loses (pathetically) this contest.
Number 4: Muammar Gaddafi
This is a half surprise I must say, esp. for someone who tops the African ranking and makes so much “noise”. But seriously, what are his assets? Gaddafi as an anti-imperialist icon doesn’t move his people any more: he admitted that his Green Book is of no use in today’s Libya, and his recent comeback into the acceptable (by the West) presidents community just crushed this image.
His other legitimacy argument is his “great” idea of the United States of Africa. But this too doesn’t affect the people as he wishes. The African assembly proved that the money he “generously” gives to many African countries is not enough. Indeed, despite this money, the African leaders refused to give him another mandate and elected Malawian president instead. Disappointed Gaddafi’s reactions were funny: “I do not believe we can achieve something concrete in the coming future,”, and having someone call him “king of kings of Africa”. Our dear Gaddafi is as egocentric and megalomaniac as ever, but this doesn’t earn him a higher position in the contest.
Number 3: The Algerian regime
The Algerian rulers make a relentless use of their major legitimacy argument: the Algerian revolution. They know we have the utmost respect for our martyrs and a big consideration for the freedom fighters who are still alive, so almost everything is justified by the individuals’ participation in the revolution. Even those who joined it hours before 19/03/1962 are not ashamed of using this argument. And so far, it worked relatively well to the point that everybody wants to use it (associations such as the former fighters’ or the martyrs’ children’s are interesting examples).
However, the Algerian regime ranks only 3rd because this argument can’t be used forever. Those who can claim something in the name of the revolution are getting older and many already died (the most recent death being Larbi Belkhir‘s). But worry not. The military are using their 1990s’ fight against the GIA and co., which saved the Algerian state and country from collapsing, as a new legitimacy argument.
On the other hand, Bouteflika, who cultivates a new personality cult (Making Algeria look like the other Arab states), bases his legitimacy on the recovered peace in Algeria, the improved economic situation of the country and his glorious past as Boumediene’s friend and foreign minister.
Number 2: The Moroccan monarchy
The Moroccan rulers, represented by Mohammed 6, owe this second place to their eternal legitimacy argument. The monarchy claims that it descends from the prophet Mohammed (pbuh) and that Islam kind of forces them to govern Morocco (and more) as Emirs of the faithful.
I have to add that they deserve this silver medal even more because they are very careful. They indeed found a second and a third legitimacy arguments which are the long ruling period of their family (no reason thus to stop it), and that they’re the only ones who can preserve the unity of the Moroccan territory and people.
And the winner is…
Number 1: Hosni Mubarak
I know this is a surprise for many of you, but contests’ interest is generally tightly linked with surprises, isn’t it?
Mubarak does indeed have little legitimacy and faces a big challenge trying to convince his people to gently accept his successor Gamal. He has also made some actions which are very destructive, the wall he’s building on the border with Gazza does not really help. He may of course claim that he’s the one who preserves peace in Egypt (and in the region) thanks to his politics towards Israel and the US, but I wonder who would buy it.
All in all Mubarak doesn’t have the best legitimacy arguments and you might be thinking that I cheated. But I didn’t ,or… rather not like you think.
The recent events between Algeria and Egypt carried many Egyptians back to the Pharaohs era and made them deny being Arabs. At the same time, some Egyptians keep telling the world that they are the real Arabs and taught Arabic to us Algerians.
But never mind. This reinforced Egyptian belief that they are the heirs of the Pharaohs added to the announcement that Egypt will soon unveil Tutankhamun’s DNA analyses results gave me the brilliant idea which will convince you that Mubarak deserves his 1st position (just like the Egyptian team deserved to win the CAN). The best legitimacy argument would indeed be for Mubarak to unveil his own DNA result and tell his people and the world that the analyses prove without doubt his family’s links with Tutankhamun. He would then change his name to Mubarakhenaten and his people would have no other choice but to greet Gamal’s advent.