On the occasion of Somali President ,Abdullahi Yusuf’s, first visit to his country, the political activist Helmi Shaarawi, head of the Cairo based Center for Arab Research and Studies, gave a lecture on the phenomenon of the “exiled state”. He discussed this new form of government which has appeared in recent years and which differs from the republics announced by independence movements during the colonial era, such as Palestine or Algeria .
These independence movements were based on a national consensus, and external recognition, and formed an institutional framework for popular resistance. On the other hand, the new “exiled states” are the result of conflict and civil war and a total collapse of state structures. In this case, the state is reduced to a mere external presence, unable to maintain local sovereignty, despite its membership in international organizations. Interestingly, the reports emerging from warn torn Somalia indicate that the thirteen year old civil war has created alternative new economic and organizational structure that are effective in their won right. In the eyes of many, they are an improvement on the days of Siad Barre’s government.
In addition to the “exiled state”, also referred to as the “suitcase state”, one can observe other models that are the product of the disintegration of state structures in countries of the Global South. This breakdown differs from the retreat of nation state in the industrialized west, even if the two courses share similarities in their political structure and their relationship with international political actors.
One such state system is the “mining state” also known as “the company state”. This model presupposes the presence of natural resources that are exploited by foreign companies. These corporations control politics and the economy, and are therefore able to install a government and depose it. In this model, the majority of the population is employed by these foreign companies. It is an undisputable fact that many African countries were created for this purpose, with some still playing the role, such as the Congo , and Gabon . Civil and ethnics conflicts in the African countries rich in oil and minerals also take place against the same background. This has lead to the formation of semi independent state structures that, while they may not be internationally recognized, are, nevertheless, regarded as a whole and are fully integrated in the global economy, because of its close relationships with international companies.
A third model also demands analysis. It is the “migrant state” which depends on the revenue of remittance of its migrants for its economic and political stability. The only capital for a number of countries from the South, lacking any real economic assets, is the economic success of its expatriate population who lives and works in the West or in the oil rich Gulf countries; a perfect example is East Asian countries. In recent years, however, migrants are beginning to hold major positions in their countries of origins. Western forces and international finance institutions combine to impose on these countries leaders who were former employees of international bodies or political refugees in the West. Clearly, the loyalty of these new heads is with external parties and are, at best, weak with regard to their native countries.
These developments in the structure of the state are related to fundamental changes in the political system. As such, several countries have, in recent years, witnessed the emergence of new models that lie somewhere between democracy and dictatorship. In some cases, despite the presence of constitutional institutions and elections leading to a peaceful transfer of power, the state remains restricted by ethnic, factional, and religious divisions with citizens unable to enjoy basic freedoms. In turn, institutional structures recreate the existing social divisions which delays democracy.
In some cases, the collapse of totalitarian regimes leads to the disintegration of the old centers of authority without replacing them with alternative democratic institutions. Formerly repressive agencies (or the military and security apparatuses), in this instance, assume a new role that, simultaneously, secures both the central government and the interests of the new powers. In this scenario, a “direct democracy” emerges, which respects procedural democratic mechanism, if they do not destabilize the new balance of power, between the central government and the new powers, for example, in Russia and Eastern Europe .
On other occasions, the transformation of these structures revitalizes public freedoms, especially the freedom of expression and political associations, without bringing about a wider democratic system. Lebanon , as many continue to point out, is a country with a high level of freedom but almost no democracy. Iran is a similar case albeit with a different background. Despite a degree of freedom and regular elections, the contradiction between elected representatives with limited powers and an appointed authoritative Supreme Leader weakens the democratic process in the Islamic Republic.
The changes in state structure we have examined so far have different backgrounds and realities but are, nevertheless, related to the nation-state model in two important aspects: sovereignty, or the political nature of the sate as an independent member in the international system, and legitimacy, or the authority of the regime as a representative of the free will of the electorate who enjoy full and equal rights as citizens. Evidently, however, globalization is imposing itself on various political models and forcing countries to reconsider both aspects, depending on their situations.