Monday, January 07, 2013

On the Arab monarchies

"However, the monarchies are running on borrowed time, and most are in worst straits than a decade ago. In Bahrain, for example, a mass uprising was stopped only through the combined efforts of the national security forces and the Gulf Cooperation Council’s military intervention. Morocco faced serious protests as well. There, the promise of constitutional revisions temporarily quieted public anger, but by accepting integration without meaningful political reform, the Islamist Justice and Development Party — the face of parliamentary opposition — now risk losing credibility like the rest of the political class. Moreover, the urban-rural divide is no longer salient; dissent is now everywhere, and demands for change have cut across old class and provincial lines.
Like Morocco, the Saudi monarchy is thickly embedded in society. Blessed by geology, it has used its enormous oil revenues to offset overt opposition with new welfare and development programmes, which has allowed the regime to defer more fundamental structural reforms. The opposite is true in oil-rich Kuwait. There, constant street protests against corruption and royal meddling have undermined the Al-Sabah family and the December 2012 elections were boycotted by the opposition. This tug-of-war between the monarchy and parliament has culminated in a critical juncture: either the regime accepts a prime minister who is a commoner, and thus beyond the emir’s control, or it must shut down parliament and backslide to authoritarianism at a very high cost.
In Jordan, the monarchy has become suffocated by two complementary forces. The Islamists want to preserve the monarchy, because the collapse of monarchical rule would allow Israel to portray the East Bank as the new alternative homeland for all Palestinians and thus justify the annexation of the whole of the West Bank. Yet they also desire constitutional monarchy, with greater political freedoms. The monarchy’s Bedouin tribal bedrock has become restless due to rising unemployment and corruption, which allows them to accuse the regime of favouring the wealthier Palestinian majority."