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Lack of Political Accountability in the Arab World

Lack of Political Accountability in the Arab World

An-Nahar, Lebanon, July 15

I often think about the stark differences between the practice of democracy in Western countries and its practice in the Arab world. Surely, the practice of democracy isn’t flawless in the West. However, the difference is that there, whenever a mistake is made, the political system quickly corrects itself. Meanwhile, in the Arab world, whenever an attempt is made to promote democracy, we encounter deliberate attempts to sabotage its implementation. Take for example what is happening in Tunisia, a country that in many ways was a “poster child” – indeed, the only Arab state that emerged from the Arab Spring with minimal upheaval to its political system and society more broadly. In 2014, the people of Tunisia adopted a constitution. The constitution was written with the help of local and international experts while soliciting input and participation from all sectors of Tunisian society. It was very promising. However, when the time came to implement the constitution, things fell apart. The political parties that came to power procrastinated in appointing the members of the newly formed Constitutional Court, which was supposed to be the body interpreting the constitution and ensuring a separation of power. This procrastination has landed Tunisian society in the predicament we see before us. In any Arab democratic experience, the problem is always with the culture that surrounds politicians and elites. The few Arab countries that have constitutional courts often use those courts to promote whatever decisions the ruling elite is interested in, under the veneer of the so-called rule of law. We all saw how the Constitutional Court in Egypt was besieged by Muslim Brotherhood members in December 2012, until its activity was suspended. Take Lebanon as another example. The judicial investigation into the major disaster that occurred in the Port of Beirut in August 2020 has gone nowhere. The hearings have been suspended and no perpetrator has been identified, despite the fact that 218 people lost their lives in the incident. Now compare these events to what we see in the West. Take the example of Britain, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson immediately stepped down from his position after two of his leading ministers submitted their resignations. Johnson’s entire political party demanded political and moral accountability. While we expect most respectable professions to require training or licensing prior to taking on a job, it seems as if the standards we have for our elected officials are far lower. Indeed, some of our politicians can barely read and write. They cling to each other, form close alliances, and do anything they possibly can to hold onto their chair in parliament. In doing so, they lose accountability to the public which they seemingly entered office to serve. –Mohammed Al-Rumaihi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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