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An Arab Man’s Sufferings in the British Elections

An Arab Man’s Sufferings in the British Elections

Monday, 16 December, 2019 - 12:15
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

He woke up early. It is an exceptional day of his life. He will vote in the British elections. He heard his colleagues at work say that exercising the right to vote was a duty that cannot be waived and an opportunity to correct. He heard them say that achievements are not an excuse for an open-ended tenure and that the great Churchill was punished through ballot boxes. He heard them also say that Margaret Thatcher, who broke the arrogance of the Argentine generals and returned the British flag to the Falklands, also bowed to the will of a ballot box.

Democracy is merciless. Despite his shining past, Charles de Gaulle was let down by the French in a referendum. So he retired in his village.

The man read in the newspapers that it was a decisive election. It is also important for Britain’s relationship with Europe and perhaps for the United Kingdom’s internal unity. If Britain has the right to jump off the European train, then why don’t the Scots have the right to jump off the British train?

It is indeed a decisive election. But there was no smell of impending civil war in the streets of London, despite the depth of the division. He smiled. Those people have fought, learned and drew conclusions. They ditched all ideas of civil war. Civil war is our specialty.

He remembers the conflicting feelings that engulfed him when he was granted British citizenship. He was haunted by memories of his ancient rural culture.

Does a person betray his homeland when he takes a foreign passport as a refuge to prevent the embassy of his country of origin from the satisfaction of humiliating and punishing him for his ideas, attitudes or impartiality?

Does the new passport mean cutting ties with your roots? Is it true what your new colleagues say that the bones of your grandparents are not more important than the future of your grandchildren?

He loves his country, but there, he always had to fear, flatter and hide his opinion and feelings. He had to publish titles similar to those of other newspapers on the basis of “mindful freedom”. He was afraid of the party representative in the neighborhood because he was also the intelligence representative. A small word from him pushes you to the gates of hell. Who knows, they may confiscate some of your teeth and nails, and they may force you under torture to confess to a conspiracy that you have never heard about!

He smiles. In Britain, you may not know the name of the intelligence director. Here, he can never be called “the strong man”, “the president-maker” or “the election architect”. He knows the story of the elections in his country. They are mere referendums. The police is stationed at the entrance of every polling station, while intelligence agents gaze at the voter with sharp looks to remind him that any mistake is costly. The elections were not exciting. The director of intelligence determines its results in advance, in agreement with the minister of interior. He also specifies the turnout and number of blank ballots to mislead the western public opinion.

It is an exceptional day of his life… an exceptional day in the life of Britain, but, in fact, it is an ordinary business day. He puts on a suit and a new tie for the occasion, and heads to the polling station.

He has some difficulties finding the polling center. There are no banners with the photos of leaders. He does not see policemen or security observers. He enters a quiet hall, where some people are waiting in a queue for their turn.

The employee asks him about his house address, and when she finds him on the list, she repeats his name, and he confirms. She does not ask him for identification papers. She gives him a paper with the names of the candidates and the parties to which they belonged, and asks him to go to a corner and put a sign near the name he chose. He follows the instructions, and drops the paper into the box. He realizes that his vote is equally important to that of Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn. His voice in his country had no value.

He leaves the place and begins to think. Iraqis headed to polls several times after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but this did not produce stability, nor did it open the door to prosperity. Hundreds of billions of dollars evaporated. When people protested, “death squads” confronted them in the squares. Some of those, who danced with joy around Saddam’s body, suddenly emerged as an exact copy of the late leader.

Some of those who celebrated the colonel’s corpse, later proved to be worse than Gaddafi himself.

But what is the size of the human and economic losses suffered by Iraq in the post-Saddam era? Why did the blood flow after the death of the leader of Al-Fateh Revolution?

Institutions, institutions, institutions. Here, businesses operate regardless of the identity of the resident of 10 Downing Street.

He also thinks about Lebanon. A country that has prematurely embraced democracy, but staggered with the intersection of internal and external poisons. A state that waited for its “savior”, but then walked in its funeral.

The Lebanese go to elections, then spend months searching for a government, in which the corrupt always find comfortable seats. Politicians deal with the State as if they were sharing a golden cow.

They pushed the state into bankruptcy at all levels. They destroyed its economy, assassinated its role, and offered the citizens fear, hunger and anxiety, accompanied by tear gas. It is the season of decay and decline.

The British elections coincided with the presidential elections in Algeria. Abdelaziz Bouteflika tried to cling to the palace, awaiting his meeting with death. But he was unsuccessful.

The cohesion of the army saved Algeria from a Libyan fate. The youth took to the streets with remarkable peace. Algeria elected a president under the supervision of the army. If only it would open a window that would prevent collapses and explosions.

British election results were announced at night. Brexit is an unavoidable fact. Britain will jump off the European train. Johnson celebrated. Corbyn admitted defeat. The Arab man rubbed his eyes. He went to bed, with many dreams in his head.

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