Erle Frayne D. Argonza


Good day to you fellow global citizens!


Political turbulence is manifestly the most featured template of the day for Arab republics. The bone of contention by polarized forces is whether to extend incumbent presidents’ terms. So let me share some reflective notes about the intriguing subject.


As a keen observer of political economic events, I can verily see that Arab republics have the penchant for electing presidents who would be chief execs for life. In the Vatican they do the same: elect a Pope for life. Albeit, the Vatican is no republic but a theocracy that has evolved its own structures, processes and culture through time, and so the Vatican’s chief exec can sit prettily for life unhampered by possible protests that would see His Holiness’ overthrow.


Republics are modern forms of states, and Arab republics chose democratic governance as the process for choosing leaders and/or policy-makers. Expectedly, republics must show exemplary behavior by changing national leaders periodically and give way to others who are perceived as responsible and capable of meeting the job expectations of a chief exec.


Even the Peoples Republic of China follows the norms of governance for choosing leaders. True, the Communist Party has a monopoly of governance in the rising star of Asia, but Chinese do choose the leaders from among qualified Communist cadres. Since after Deng Shao Ping, no one has ever become president or prime minister for life, so nobody can ever satirically remark a “Pope Hu Jintao” to denigrate China’s very capable president.


Unfortunately, the Arab presidencies haven’t been complying with the accepted norms of republican leadership. Take the case of Iraq that was for a long time governed by “Pope Saddam” as chief exec. “Pope Saddam” seems to be the model of the presidents of Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, and other Arab states that traversed the republican trajectory of statehood.


Had it been clearly stipulated in the charters of the republican states that their respective presidents will be chief execs for life, the constituents will not begrudge the nation’s echelon whatsoever. But that isn’t the case, as charters do clearly stipulate the fixed terms for chief execs, and that is where tensions can arise in the course of tenures of over-staying presidents.


Grand deceptions can indeed be cooked and cooked well so as to be digested by obedient herds of constituents, as the Arab presidencies have perpetually flaunted on their folks. But no one can fool all the people all the time, and sooner or later there will be outbursts of detractions coming from a diversity of oppositionist forces.


The Arab republics’ Permanent President (with capital letters to stress the point) had already come full circle, and can no longer be recycled in an unending vicious circle. The phenomenon of ‘rising expectations’ has finally caught up with the system of national governance of perpetuity, thus causing huge explosions of public outrage across the said states.


Regime change’ is now the most urgent task falling upon the shoulders of responsible constituents. Relentless protests are waged, akin to the protests waged versus military dictatorships in developing states in Latin America and Asia in the 1980s and ‘90s.


Portugal’s parallel overthrow of its long-term dictatorship took place much earlier in the 1970s. Dubbed as the ‘velvet revolution’, it was followed a bit later by the Philippine ‘people power’ revolution that overthrew the dictator Marcos. The same phenomenon of massive, relentless protests marked the political landscape in these countries and others that was capped by the overthrow of the existing permanent presidents.


Arabs are latecomers in the matter of people empowerment, but it is “better late than never.” The die has been cast on the side of people power, and so one by one shall the permanent presidents be taken down. Arab republics’ constituencies are showing courage and audacity in fomenting change, risking lives and limbs to achieve the goal of reforms, and they are inspired by the recent precedents of Tunisia and Egypt.


The momentum of change through people power has already picked up. Arab presidents should better heed the demands for their graceful exits now, or else they face the option of a full-scale civil war of which no one will be winner in the long-run.


[Philippines, 18 February 2011]




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