Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Arab Leaders…Reset the Clock! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

Now is not the time for judgment, nor is it the time for saying “we told you so”, but rather it is the time to congratulate the rational minds in the Middle East. Our region is being divided for and against, and the situation has turned into “mindless hysteria”, whereby everything is becoming perplexing. However, let us stop in front of this highly important matter, as light is visible at the end of the tunnel!

In the midst of our grief for the horror, sorrow and blood in Cairo yesterday, something significant happened in Yemen. President Ali Abdullah Saleh came out and told his people: “I will make concessions”. He publicly announced that there would be “No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock”, and that he would not back down from his words this time, as happened on previous occasions. “Resetting the clock” is a well known expression to Yemenis and those in the Gulf, and refers to the scenario where if a car had been driven for thousands of miles, the owner might reset the counter to zero to make it appear new. The Yemeni President further added that he would introduce “a specific electoral program in which the presidential term would be limited to only two sessions of five years. People will transfer power peacefully, without unrest, without taking to the streets, without mobs, and without smashing shops and destroying institutions. These [actions] are not acceptable”.

So, are we okay now? Is there a breeze of rationality blowing through our Arab homelands? Do republics realize it is impossible to act as monarchies, without destroying our nations? We hope so, and this is the argument I put forward in an article on the 31st of January (entitled: Is it a crisis for the Egyptian regime alone?), in which I attacked the mindless hysteria in the Arab world, and I was criticized for trying to defend the Egyptian regime! The problem is clear; the coming crisis was inevitable, no matter how long it was prolonged by all Arab republics.

An intellectual once told me that according to the German theorist Max Weber, political legitimacy, or the legitimacy of authority, can be classified into three models: “traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal”. The traditional model is a monarchy, although a sound monarchy would be one that accommodates the changes around it, and adapts with them. The best example of charismatic authority in our region is the late Egyptian President, Gamal Abdul Nasser. However, public opinion, like the weather, is a volatile entity. For example, Britain voted to depose their historical, charismatic, and democratically elected Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, after the end of World War II. Finally, the rational-legal model of authority is best represented by elections, and the peaceful transfer of power. This model occurs in democratic countries.

The crisis facing our republics looms large, and it is inevitable as long as there is an absence of patriotism and a lack of priority for the interests of the country. We will not benefit from tricks or oppression, as history tells us. If the situation were to calm down in Egypt, and if rational-minded individuals were to comply with President Mubarak’s call, and leave the streets, then the desired reforms could be implemented, as the regime cannot go back on these issues after all that’s happened. Egypt today is not the Egypt of yesterday. If this were to happen, then there would be a more favorable outlook, with many prospects. However, these prospects would be different to what is being promoted by Iran, its allies and its agents, in their statements today. The road is still long and tough, and it requires a rational approach, rather than shouting “We are not Tunisia”, “We are not Egypt” or “We are not Yemen”.