Revolt Checklist: 9 Reasons the Masses Seek to Overthrow the Rulers of the Middle East

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March 25, 2011 22:16
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REASON #7: AUTOCRACY

Autocracy comes from the Greek words: “autos” meaning “self” and “kratos” meaning “power.” In an autocratic system, one person or group holds all the power, without the participation, or sometimes even the consent, of the people. It is considered as the opposite of democracy.

An autocracy lacks political competition, transparency, freedom of expression, right to have a different opinion, human rights framework, and accountability of state institutions. The autocrat of a country will definitely claim, in theory, the existence of such rights and will ask the state institutions to observe them. However, in practice, there won’t be any checks and balances or the precedent of such rights existing and laws observed by the state.

Egypt under the reign of Hosni Mubarak could be termed as a classical autocratic state where any form of dissent was not tolerated. The state was put under the firm control of the security apparatus that kept a lid on political activities, muzzled the press, and tortured opponents of the regime. Everything revolved around the policies of his cronies, known as the National Democratic Party.

mubarak autocrat egyptian uprising

Egyptian demonstrators in Alexandria tear down the image of Hosni Mubarak in a strong act of defiance of his 30-year-old autocratic regime. Photo - AFP/Getty

Mubarak, who came in power in October 1981, stayed clung onto it by “winning” four presidential elections – three of which were not contested by any candidate and the other by a landslide. The existence of the parliament was nothing more than a sham, which acted as a rubberstamp and approved Mubarak’s authoritarian policies without any debate. The formation of political parties was technically impossible if not constitutionally restricted.

The presence of the Egyptian autocrat was overwhelming. His portraits were hung in the government offices, the parliament, courts and public places. The intention of such imposing existence was to make sure that Mubarak is present on the public psyche all around the clock with absolute control. A whole generation grew up watching him in power, who always asked the people to cooperate with the government and help him defeat the imaginary ‘enemies of the state’.

Flash points: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, Syria, Gulf states, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan.

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