All Hail the Kings Putin and Abdullah

Kremlin set for power swap

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev arrive at a congress of the ruling United Russia party on Saturday. Photo: IC – are they holding hands?

We are rounding a bend and getting ready to start into a full-fledged presidential campaign.  The process is too long, too expensive and too diverting for my tastes; however, it is a process that has worked for a couple of hundred years.  Without military coups, civil wars (the one we did have was not about the transference of presidential power) or any serious disruption of the social or economic order of our lives,  power is transferred from one person to next and from one party to the next.  We forget sometimes how important that is and how much say we do have in our government.  I do wish that we had at least one more viable political party.  I do wish the campaigns were shorter and less expensive – the very nature of the price of a presidential campaign is, if not corrupting, at the very least restrictive.  And I do wish the party platforms were simpler, more transparent and binding for the winning party. I am never quite certain what agenda I am endorsing  when I vote for an individual.  But I am very glad that we have a process for selecting our leaders and that we have a separate process of making our laws the govern our lives.  Not everyone in the world lives in a place that  has a clear process or gives individuals a say in the process.

This week in Russia Vladimir Putin decided he is tired of being the prime minister and wants to be the president again.  Putin has also decided the president, Dmitry Medvedev, will become the prime minister or go back to the Duma in a leadership role.  Of course, he said he is running for the presidency, but Putin leaves little room to suppose that anything or anyone could keep him from doing what he wants – no one has been able to frustrate his desires for the last 12 years.

The king of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,  King Abdullah, has just announced that women will be allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia – but they still will not be allowed drive to the polls.  It was just that simple, women can now vote; that also means it was always that simple always.  If the king had so desired women might have voted, driven a car or left home without a male relative escorting them last year or any year.  Women in western democracies fought for years for the right to vote – it was not a simple, painless or quick process, but it happened  – a century or more ago.  In the second decade of the 21 century, the king of Saudi Arabia decided to allow women to vote – thanks king.  I suspect that like the King of Jordan and the other hereditary monarchies on the Gulf that King Abdullah is trying to head off a revolt by liberalizing polices; previously he announced programs to build more houses and increase individual stipends for the same reason, to avoid a Saudi Spring.

I often think some of our laws are arbitrary.  Some laws are passed as a knee jerk reaction to some very rare event; others are slipped into other legislation by some clever, but sneaky legislature – those infamous “riders” and sometimes those laws that I would term arbitrary are the result of the agenda of the party in power – the other party.  Many of those are annoying and frustrating, but I can always vote for someone who professes another point of view.  So while some of our laws may be arbitrary, we never have had laws that were the result of one man’s whims and desires.  Saudi Arabia and Russia may not have much in common, but they both seem to have a system of government that caterers to the king’s ego.


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September 2011
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