French Muppet Show Les Guignols portrayed Abdelaziz Bouteflika raising one hand from his coffin for the swearing-in ceremony. A caricaturist for the Liberté daily newspaper depicted a youth holding up a sign with the popular Arab Spring slogan “dégage” (get out) and Bouteflika, sitting on a throne, holding the reply: “I mustn’t move . . . Doctor’s orders.”
It would have been comical had the reality been different. Unfortunately, it is not. It’s a tragicomedy! After single-handedly ruling Algeria since 1999, sitting President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika was elected for the fourth time back to power grabbing more than 81 per cent of the vote and the world watched as the ageing despot was wheeled into the national assembly. Welcome to a country where 70 per cent of Algeria’s 37 million people are under 30 years of age. This is all the young generation gets – a president who is bounced back at them at the age of 77!
Nor can they complain too much. Their neighbours are in a much less enviable position. In Egypt, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who led a coup d’état in July against the elected government, is on his way to become Egypt’s next president. The army – which has hovered close to the throne of every president since Nasser, is back with a vengeance, bringing back horrid memories from a different era: 680 executions were dished out in one day – more than there are in one year in the most barbaric countries and states of the world. The goons who had kept Husni Mubarak in power and maintained a total dictatorial autocracy for decades, are back again. And so is the nepotism which al-Sisi has been so vociferously denouncing: two of al-Sisi’s sons work for the government, controlling intelligence and anti-corruption agencies.
Welcome to Tahrir Square where thousands of Egyptians – mainly youth – led the greatest revolution of modern times. Welcome to the leftovers of the Arab Spring.
In Syria, the heart-wrenching horror continues. The killing is unabated and there doesn’t seem to be any way out. Bachar El Assad, the son of the previous leader Hafez al-Assad, is running again for presidency and the reason why many youth were killed in Sabaa Bahrat Square is almost a vague memory. The circular route back to despotism will soon be complete.
Tunisia isn’t yet an unmitigated success story but it has managed to learn lessons from its neighbours. Time will tell whether it will escape their fate. As for Lybia, apart from chaos and anarchy, the country is suffering from a range of stresses and strains it won’t be able to overcome any time soon. The political scene in the Arab world – and elsewhere too if you look around – is dominated by the entrenched old guard. The youth leading revolutions and risking their lives to finally find themselves led by old despots with one foot in the grave.
It is not our intention to compare ourselves to the citizens who participated in the Arab Spring. That would be inane. However, think about this: the old, crippled guys keep bouncing back against all the discontent because there is no one yet among the youth capable of giving them a run for their money. How sad!
If you are looking for a way to be depressed, just ask yourself one question: “Who will take over from the old generation of politicians?” Assuming you manage to budge them, who will their replacements be? Their incompetent children? I shudder at the thought!