Monday, June 02, 2008

Down with monarchy

Nepal ended its monarchy last Wednesday when the newly elected Parliament, including Maoist representatives, abolished the Shah dynasty after 239 years. In 2007, Samoa also ended its monarchy when the last King died. In March, Bhutan ended its absolute monarchy when the King ceded power to an elected legislature.
There are quite a few remaining consitutional monarchies in the world, including of course, England (Great Britain), Spain, Thailand, and so on. But, there are very few remaining absolute monarchies, and surprisingly most of them are in the Arab world, including Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In some of these, including Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait and Qatar, there are moves towards giving the citizenry some rights, but the King or Emir still retains power.
Of course, there are some dictatorships whose rule has become hereditary like monarchies, including North Korea, Cuba and Syria. To all intents and purposes, the fact that one of more of these is called communist makes no difference. The fact is that one man controls the power of the state, even if the fiction is maintained that the power lies in the party. In some cases, a dictator lasts only "one term", such as Idi Amin of Uganda and Bokassa of the Central African Republic (his term as Emperor lasted two years after he had children massacred). When they become extreme in their repression they are eventually overthrown. The same should happen to Pres. Mugabe of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), who has caused enormous suffering to his own people.
It is notable that many dictators turn to elections that they rig in order to justify their control of power, examples are Hitler, Stalin and Mobutu, while absolute monarchs have no need to do even this. However, there are few people who believe any more in the "divine right of Kings" to rule. So it is a matter of time before the absolute monarchies and dictatorships are overthrown.
Looking at the record of history it seems that a revolutionary upheaval is often the only way to overthrow an absolute monarchy, as happened in France, Germany and Russia. Whether or not the State can return to tranquility after such an upheaval is uncertain but unlikely. It took 75 years for the Russian revolution to yield to representative government.
The noteworthy fact that the Arab world contains the most absolute monarchies, and some of the longest-running dictatorships, such as Syria, Egypt and Libya, reflects the comparative backwardness and reactionary nature of the Arab world and parts of the Muslim world (for example Iran). In all of these countries no citizen can criticize the government without severe repercussions, such as arrest, trial and death. No doubt religion, and particularly Islam, is related to this state of affairs (if not actually responsible for it). Probably the Arab/Muslim world needs a reformation or a similar upheaval, but unfortunately, since the powers-that-be and the majority of their people oppose western influence, then it looks like they are doomed to remain forever backward. Unfortunately it seems it is only Israel's and America's actions (such as in Iraq) that can show them the way forward. Not that they appreciate it.


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