Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Farewell to the Presidential Palace | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I am not convinced Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh really intends to stand down at the end of his current term in office. After all, such behavior is unusual in the Arab World. Confidently, I am betting this scenario is unlikely to occur in normal circumstances and I am not alone.

Time will tell if I have won my bet or not. Will the President quietly depart his Palace and return to his humble residence, or, will he have a change of heart, at the list minute and give in to the alleged requests to stay in power?

The situation is slightly different in Arab parliaments as members are prepared to lose their seats and watch the government and opposition parties square off from the comfort of their own homes. Recently, I learned why so many men and women who have no experience of politics take part in parliamentary elections; an MP in Lebanon gets a monthly salary of 5000$ for life. Many Arab countries also reward their representatives and offer them financial support, without having to fight for their posts.

Of course some may hesitate to leave their presidential palaces afraid of the dangers lurking behind the corner because of a lack of rules on protecting ex- officials, ensuring they are safe and their privileges maintained. Even if such guarantees were present, no one can make sure they are sustained. I recall when the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri first resigned from his post. He was hassled at the airport and in the media on a daily basis. Members of his coalition were harassed and his investment projects put on hold. He eventually spent most of his time abroad. It seems respecting former government figures and treating courteously hadn’t crossed the minds of his opponents.

A lack of respect for former rulers is based on the assumption that presidents and officials almost never resign or vacate their posts as part of a free and just process. Accordingly, whoever gives up

their post must have been coerced and pushed to do so. Undoubtedly, the harsh treatment meted out to those no longer in government must scare anyone thinking of resigning or even anyone thinking of applying for a certain post. As for those who cling on to power, they convince themselves of their heroic deeds and ask to be left alone to complete their sacred missions.

In recent times, much has been made of the nearing end of a number of long- established presidential terms. We are entering an age where fair and free elections, previously a rare occurrence, are becoming increasingly popular. Elections need to occur in a transparent and free environment where opponents can compete fairly. There much talk across the Arab World yet no one knows when the transition of power will take place and who will ensure justice is maintained in the future. Will it be a superpower, the United Nations, or the armed forces?

President Saleh has promised he will not stand for re-election. Will he keep his word and set himself apart from so many other presidents, from the first and third worlds?