Monday, August 06, 2007

Why do some leaders want to go on forever?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has confirmed that he will try to change the law to allow him to remain in power indefinitely.

Some leaders can't step down because they think it as ingratitude for their efforts to ask them to go. For them stepping down is a degradation as they won't have any influence in their country. In a democracy, there should be a rotation of power so the country can have new blood. former leaders can still be a good asset for their countries. They can be advisers or take up international initiatives. Bill Clinton is still a star because he invigorates himself by being active on many issues, national and international and by keeping his support for his party.

However, in many third world countries, especially in Africa and the Middle East, there are leaders who overstay their welcome. To hold to power they create a party that dominate all the branches of power. In the Middle East, there are Egypt and Libya where the leaders are there apparently for life with the intention of leaving power to their sons as it is the case of Syria where Bashar Al-Assad replaced his father. The risk is that lifelong presidents will turn just dictators, violently repressing any opposition to them.

Some leaders continue to govern their countries even from their graves. They are worshipped like Gods. In North Korea, the New Year is celebrated on the birthday of Eternal president: Kim Il-sung (deceased). His son, the current president Kim Jong-il has an elaborate personality cult through which he rules. So no one dares to oppose his policy, let alone to seek his replacement through democratic process.

Lifelong presidents become just monarchs in disguise. Their families and relatives become powerful, using their close relations with the leader to be above the law. Opportunists become subservient to them for their own interests. In a sense, the state becomes just like “Animal farm” as described by George Orwell in his political novel. Perhaps, leaders in republics should adopt the principle of rule and let rule, instead of becoming an obstacle for political change and power rotation. At best, they should opt to become figureheads while power is carried out through democratically elected institutions.

One final point, there remains a question to ask about having a leader for life: Which is worse, to have a president for life or to have successive presidents who can't make any positive change, economically and politically? It's all about efficiency. You can change presidents, but the most important is to have new political strategy that aspires for political change. In many countries there is apathy towards any sort of elections because people have lost faith in their political leaders. They don't care which president they have as for them all politicians are the same.

Should leaders rule for life?

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