June 21st, 2012 | Global Times Mubarak era over, but toxic legacy remains
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has been put on life support. His fate has been sealed as a dying criminal. It is a personal tragedy that symbolizes the turbulence in the country.
Mohamed Anwar el-Sadat, Mubarak’s predecessor, was assassinated during a military parade in 1981, from where Mubarak took over power until he was overthrown not long ago. But his fate was no better than Sadat’s. The results of the Egyptian presidential election are set to be unveiled today, however, with both candidates claiming victory, a lengthy political storm looms on the horizon.
In countries struggling with political upheaval, politicians often suffer dramatic ups and downs in their careers. Many had to endure a disgraceful end. Former South Korean president Park Chung-hee was assassinated in 1979. The Gandhi family of India and Bhutto family of Pakistan both had a prime minister killed by opponents. In many Southeast Asian countries, former presidents often face trial soon after they leave office.
How to treat the highest authorities is a challenge for many countries. It is not easy to reach an agreement between politicians and ordinary people. The tragedy often arises from the thinking that a country’s fate is closely related to a particular politician.
The departure of a political strongman sometimes brings new hope to a country, but also leaves one or more generations living in uncertainty. Without a mature system, the nation’s stability is often compromised by an outgoing strongman.
Political strongmen are sometimes an attractive choice for countries mired in upheaval. They can quickly restore public order and guarantee politicians’ personal gain, including security. But it also breeds danger as it is difficult to extend public order and personal gain to the next leader.
It is easy to uproot a political strongman, but much more difficult to remove the problems associated with strongman politics. The removal of the strongman has to be complemented with tackling these problems.
A high-quality democracy can help a society prosper, but a country with poor democratic politics cannot easily improve sloppy governance, of which strongman politics is only a syndrome. The Western political system has effectively restricted authorities’ power. But now it raises another question of whether a weakened government can lead countries to cope with growing challenges.
How long Mubarak can cling on to life for is not important. His remaining value probably lies in prompting people to ponder how he and Egypt came to such a state today.
By Global Times