What the tactics of Middle East dictators can tell us about Theresa May’s political situation today

Arab governments may face a few dissenters, but a rigged vote will ensure their survival. Our prime minister must envy this simple ‘democracy’

by Robert Fisk

The Independent Voices

To postpone a vote – or to “defer” the vote, as Theresa May decided to do this week – is a common enough habit among the dictators and kings of the Middle East. They are always worried that the wrong side may win when the government faces a vote. That’s why Chadli Bendjedid postponed the second round of parliamentary elections in Algeria in 1991. He was worried that the Islamists might win. The people could not be trusted. So he decided to defer the vote. Then he was forced to resign, and Algeria ended up with a civil war.
You get the point. Sometimes – in the “national interest”, of course – there really is no alternative. In Algeria, Bendjedid already had a pretty good idea of who would win the 1991 poll. In the first round of elections the previous year, the FIS Islamic party had trounced all opposition. The army were not going to countenance this, so no second round. End of “democracy” and the end of Bendjedid as well.

Hosni Mubarak, one of the obtuse but more boring Arab dictators – a politically rather dingy man seen by the US and most European nations as a force for “stability” – deferred Egypt’s 2006 local government vote because he feared they would threaten a subsequent parliamentary poll. The Muslim Brothers were popular. The people could not be trusted.



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