Who's next after Mubarak?
First it was Tunisia. Then Egypt and Yemen. Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, North Korea, Belarus and Tajikistan could be next. The long list of autocratic regimes that could fall sends shivers down my spine, because they won't go without a fight. There will be bloodshed.
Every year we see new lists of the autocrats, tyrants and dictators who will be toppled, if not today then tomorrow, or maybe in six months or a year. Regardless of the timeframe, their fate is sealed. Not all predictions come to pass, but new lists crop up every year.
TIME Magazine published the latest list of the top 10 doomed autocrats: Hosni Mubarak, Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, King Abdullah and the House of Saud, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko and Tajikistan's Emomali Rahmon.
The usual suspects
These lists of the worst of the worst always remind me of that wonderful classic "Casablanca" starring Humphrey Bogart. After the murder of a German major, the French police chief says with a sigh: "Round up the usual suspects."
There are a lot of usual suspects when it comes to authoritarian rulers, and the names vary only slightly from list to list. Which names make it onto each particular list is a matter of the expert's (if it is an expert at all) preferences and political views, as well as the political situation in these rulers' countries at the moment. But on the whole the list has changed little in the last five years.
Since all eyes are now fixed on Egypt, North Africa and the Middle East, it makes sense to focus on the leaders from this region. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is unlikely to suffer the same fate that awaits Hosni Mubarak and has already claimed Tunisian President Ben Ali (who fled to Saudi Arabia, incidentally). Monarchs are, by definition, autocrats. But Abdullah can take comfort in the relative prosperity of Saudi Arabia compared to Egypt or Tunisia, the prevailing attitude toward the House of Saud among his subjects, the prestige of the royal family, his brutally efficient tactics and the stability it has won. The uprising in Egypt is unlikely to spill over into Saudi Arabia. Which isn't to say that South Arabia is problem free. Its citizens lack rights and freedom but not to the same extent as in Egypt.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is more likely to fall to an Islamic uprising. Several years ago, the country endured a civil war after the government invalidated the results of a general election after radical Islamic parties had won. An Islamic government would have been a huge step backward for Algeria. In North Africa, the Islamic groups that are engaged in an open war against the secular regimes are generally very strong.