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Presidents for Life-Encounters with Authors Mindich Book Review
Friday, March 4, 2011
Location: CGIS Knafel, (K354). 1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA 02138 map
*By Invitation only
PRESIDENTS FOR LIFE: MONARCHO/PRESIDENTIAL REPUBLICS AND THE POLITICS OF SUCCESSION IN THE ARAB WORLD
My book concerns two increasingly significant features of Arab political life over the last twenty of thirty years: the emergence of presidents for life and the particular problems that surround the politics of succession in republics as opposed to the remaining Middle Eastern monarchies. Though these two issues have been noted by many writers they have never been examined in a systematic way which also pays due attention to the history of the process and the ways in which the situation among the Arab states is different from that elsewhere in the post colonial world by virtue of a common approach to common problems stretching from Morocco to Kuwait.
My basic argument is that, after independence, the Arab states were subject not only to a number of general Third World developments – the quest for full sovereignty, the establishment of authoritarian state structures, etc. – but also to the creation of coup-proof presidencies which meant that whoever was in power when this process was complete was able (and it seems anxious) to remain in power for life unless either assassinated (Sadat of Egypt) or, in the case of Nimeriri of Sudan and Bouguiba of Tunisia, deposed by a former ally.
The result was both an increasing number of late 60-80 year old presidents – Ben Ali (Tunisia), Bouteflika (Algeria), Ghadhafi (Libya), Mubarak (Egypt), Abdulla Saleh (Yemen) – and also a particular ‘politics’ of succession in which much of the business of state was taken up with the question of who might, could or should be the next ruler, with attention directed increasingly to his son or some other close relatives.
The book examines the historical development of the essential features of the Arab presidential security state – its monarcho-presidential families, its associated police and control structures, its links with and use of a small number of crony-capitalist families, its search for new resources - as well as the particular logic that informs its central imperatives in terms of the coherence (or lack of it) among its core components as they jockey to preserve their interests from one president to the next.TABLE OF CONTENTS
(1) The Arab World since independence
(2) The origins of the Presidential Security State and of Presidencies for life
(3) The components of the Arab Monarcho/Presidential Security Regimes
(4) Three different trajectories: Egypt, Syria and Tunisia
(5) Sudan and the ‘tribal’ republics of Libya and Yemen
(6) The Exceptions: states with weak presidencies: Lebanon and Post Saddam Hussein Iraq
(7) The Arab monarchies and their ‘Republican’ features
(8) The varying impact of oil
(9) The question of Arab exceptionalism
(10) Possible futures