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What a Coincidence! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Imagine this; in the Arab world today, three major conflicts are taking place over power. Moreover, in all three conflicts, one side is hanging on to power, while the other is wishing for a swift departure… Who are the three parties? Herein lies the distinction!

In Iraq, calls are being made for the removal of Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari from power in Baghdad, while he has announced he intends to remain in his post, as the people and God’s choice.

In the second instance is Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, who aired his dirty laundry in public at the Khartoum summit, as Lebanese rivals sought to internationalize their disagreements. He insists on remaining in power until the last second, out of respect for the constitution, which he had amended in order to extend his mandate. In other words, he has tailor-made the constitution according to his needs! The constitutional amendment was the main battle for which political and media figures were killed in Lebanon.

The third leader is Dr. Numan Gumaa, the ousted head of the Egyptian Wafd party! Herein lies the distinction! We are talking about the leader of a political party and not the president of country who has access to the armed forces! But, Dr. Gumaa has decided to take matters into his own hands, using weapons to storm the party’s headquarters in Cairo. Dr. Numaan is a former law professor and the ex-leader of a 90-year old well- respected liberal party. However, for the sake of power, he reneged the most important liberal principles of all, the respect of divergent views and the recourse to the law!

These are examples of the infatuation with power across the Arab world. Here are a president, a prime minister and a party leader! These are the three highest summits in Arab politics. Each one wants to cling to his position, going as far as claiming the leader is the choice of God and the people, or that the president is in power in the name of the constitution- even if it is him who amended it- or by supposedly leading a party who believes in the transition and the respect of the law, while using violence and thuggery.

Unfortunately, this is the situation in our Arab world. Some believe the Wafd party’s latest clash is symptomatic of the wider crisis in Egyptian politics. Others claim it is a game by the Egyptian government. The truth is this is an Arab wide problem. It is a crisis of culture and a crisis of respect for difference and the people’s interests, as well as a crisis of credibility.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which ran under the slogan “Islam is the solution” during the Egyptian elections, appeared on our television screens as their supporters kissed the hand of the brotherhood’s candidate, promising complete allegiance, displaying behavior that is not appropriate for a group who gained power through the ballot boxes and in the name of Western democracy.

Here is Hamas, lead by the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah leading us astray with claims “this statement was misinterpreted” or “the Prime Minister did not mean this”. There is no difference between Haniyah and Arafat’s methods in playing with words.

This is a struggle for power whose first basis is lying and the first victim’s are ordinary people. Politicians who cling to power claim they are the state and the state is me. The former Wafd leader claims he is the party and the party and its ideology are him. Neither does the state have basic features for politicians who cling to power nor does ideology have an effect for the deposed former leader. It is not my aim to hurt any individuals. All I want to say is that a crisis is happening, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf. The Arab features of the disease have become clear and liberalism and Islamism have become equal in the tools of the Arab political game.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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