Dictators may have gone but not their dictatorships

I was able to show some solidarity with the Arab awakening during a recent trip to Tunisia, when it all started. It appears young Arabs now aspire to the symbolism of Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian graduate fruit seller whose produce was confiscated because he lacked the correct permit. His attempted suicide (he has since died) set off protests over unemployment across North Africa.

Whether it’s a young Egyptian who occupies Tahrir Square or a young Libyan defying the madness of Muammar Gaddafi, their actions are all essentially taken in the name of their own liberation.

Yet while they have successfully managed to eliminate the physical dictators such as Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, we have yet to see the “dictatorships” removed.

In Egypt, the military council is still in charge. It has made changes to the government and in the make up of the cabinet in order to appease the protesters. The military council has been running the country since February 11 and will do so for six months or until the end of parliamentary and presidential elections.

Despite an announcement that a referendum on proposed constitutional reform will be held on March 19, the military have yet to remove the emergency law sand state they will not remove them until the streets finally clear. So the very laws that fuelled the protests are still in place.

In Tunisia, the new administration has been given just two months to implement reforms before March 15 to pave the way for elections in July.

After suffering under a presidential dictatorship and de facto one-party rule, most leftist and Islamists are yearning for a parliamentary system. They want power to be handed over to a caretaker team of independent technocrats.

They also want the National Council for the Defence of the Revolution to be officially  recognised and given the right to monitor the new government pending elections.

This Arab awakening won’t go away and may be extended to other parts of the Middle East – to Arab monarchies such as Saudi Arabia. The best thing Britain can do is stay out – a warning David Cameron would do well to heed.

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