(Fisk) Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia gains landslide (99.52%)!

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 3 Jun 2002 22:26:45 +0100

By Robert Fisk in Beirut 

So now it's 99.52 per cent for President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali of

The naivety – the "infantalisme", as Tunisia's largely French-speaking
elite would say – of Arab pseudo-democracy has never reached such
heights. After the vote for "constitutional changes", Mr Ben Ali can
rule almost for life – Roman emperors, remember, once ruled Tunisia –
and he's still only 65. 

The statistics, which mean that 0.48 of voters opposed Mr Ben Ali,
suggest either that the Tunisian electorate are childish or that they
are being treated as children. The latter is most probably the case. 

For remember that the poor old Egyptians are foisted with similar
nonsense. President Mubarak of Egypt usually pulls up 98 per cent of the
vote, often in front of President Saddam Hussein's outrageous 97 per
cent. The masquerade, the folly of these idiotic elections, is proved by
the figures. 

All that remains to be discussed is why these regimes insist on holding
these palpably ridiculous elections in the first place. Surely, it is
not about legitimacy. The Arab armies and their even greater legions of
intelligence thugs are perfectly capable of ensuring the safety of their
leaders. Long ago, the Arab nations ceased to be nations. 

They are regimes called states, and the protection of the regime – the
survival of the regime – is more important than the state. Many are the
Syrians who remember that when Syrian troops were fighting the Israeli
army at Observatory Ridge on Golan in 1973, the vital military reserves
that might have saved their offensive were guarding Baath party
headquarters in Damascus. 

This is why "states of emergency" and martial law exist in so many Arab
nations; since 1981 in Egypt, since 1963 in Syria. In most cases, of
course, we – the West – support these dictatorships. 

The American government acknowledges President Ben Ali's support for the
"war on terror" – something Mr Ben Ali's people know all about at first
hand – and five million tourists, many of them from Britain, fly to
Tunisia's beaches each year. Some of them were killed when a suicide
bomber attacked a synagogue on a Tunisian island last month. 

The real problem is that this ridiculous electoral game prevents the
political development of the Arab world. Arab nations are not modern
states. Their bureaucracy serves their regimes rather than their people.

Those who wish for serious political debate are arrested. Or they go
underground. Why did Egypt have so much trouble with the Islamists in
the 1990s? Or Syria with the Islamists in 1982? Or Algeria in 1992? When
President Ben Ali's own party holds 148 of the 182 seats in parliament –
when the region of Sidi Bouzid, south of Tunis, gives him 99.98 per cent
of the vote – what future is there for a state to belong to its people
rather than its president? So Mr Ben Ali – a sprightly 65 – will now be
with us until 2014. And the Americans, who apparently want democracy in
Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan (and Cuba), will say nothing. 

The great danger will come when – or if, the Arab leaders will say –
there is ever a peace with Israel. For if there is no more war, what
reason will there be for states of emergency and martial law? What will
the regimes do then? Find a new enemy? 

Or face the people. As Souhair Belhassen, the vice-president of the
Tunisian Human Rights League, bravely put it: "The masquerade became
indecent because even in the craziest dictatorial regimes, one dares not
announce such figures." 

Source:  The Independent

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  • » (Fisk) Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia gains landslide (99.52%)!