January 23, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 6754

Saudi Columnists On Trump Inauguration: When Will We Adopt The Practice Of A Smooth Democratic Transfer Of Power?

January 23, 2017
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 6754

Following the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, Saudi columnists commented on the smooth transfer of power that took place in the U.S. despite the sharp differences of opinion between the two presidents, in accordance with the American constitution and democratic tradition. The columnists wondered why Asian and African countries could not adopt the same practice instead of maintaining dictatorships that only purport to be democratic. As an example, columnist Hatoun Al-Fasi mentioned Gambia, where the president recently refused to step down in favor of the winner of the presidential elections. She wondered whether some internal flaw prevented such countries from being democratic, and implied that this is unlikely, considering that Obama himself is of African origin.

Columnist Hamoud Abu Taleb: Backward Countries Purport To Be Democratic But Realize Democracy Only On Paper

In an article in the daily 'Okaz, columnist Hamoud Abu Taleb expressed appreciation for the smooth transition of power in the U.S., writing: "January 20 is the date on which U.S. presidents are inaugurated, and no official, party or administration, regardless of their identity, can delay it. The inauguration proceeds calmly and smoothly, following an established tradition that reflects values ingrained in [American] political life. We see the outgoing president handing over the reins of power willingly and in good faith, for he embodies these values, believes in them and implements them. We see former presidents attending the event to demonstrate that they welcome it and are proud of the democracy implemented by their regime. Here we witness and understand the practical realization of the concept of orderly transition of power. [Moreover,] as this important historic event takes place, life across the U.S. continues normally. There is no state of emergency, no disruption of business or public services, and the country does not become [like] a military camp. This is how transition of power takes place in countries that respect their constitution and laws, apply democracy and implement it in a dignified manner.  

Hamoud Abu Taleb (image:

"The real joke is what happens in backward countries that claim to have a constitution and insist [that they allow] political participation via parties with equal rights. [These parties ostensibly] represent the people and take part in free and fair elections that end with one candidate taking the reins of power for a specified period of time. But what takes place in practice undermines all these principles that exist only on paper, and the result is a single party – the ruling party – and a single leader who is [repeatedly] reelected in fake formal elections, following which he remains in office until he dies or is assassinated or imprisoned. [Rulers carry out] coups and assassinations, [instigate] chaos, destroy the state, oppress the people and spill blood just to stay in power. And yet the politicians shamelessly reiterate [their commitment to] democracy and the smooth transition of power."[1]

Academic Hatoun Al-Fasi: Why Hasn't The U.S. Managed To Convey Its Democracy To Us?

Hatoun Al-Fasi, a Saudi academic at Qatar University who writes for the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, also commented on the inauguration of the new U.N. president and wondered why Asian and African countries are unable to adopt the democratic model. She wrote: "January 20, 2017 was a special day for the world, which watched closely as the 45th president of the U.S. was inaugurated, a president that had aroused concern in the world from the moment he launched his election campaign and until he was sworn into office. Despite this, there was not a single media outlet in the world that did not cover the [inauguration] of the honorable U.S. president Donald Trump and did not spend hours and hours following it, commenting on it, explaining it and detailing each and every stage of the traditional American inauguration ceremony...

Hatoun Al-Fasi (image:

"But why should we take an interest in what happens there, on that continent thousands of miles away? Perhaps because it gives us food for thought. Yes, food for thought about the exact procedure of transferring power from one president to another. [It begins with] a ceremony of taking leave of the former president... lasting about an hour. Then the new president is sworn in... and takes leave of his predecessor... [while the latter becomes] an ordinary American citizen who bears the title 'former president' but retains none of his [presidential] authorities. [These authorities] have been smoothly transferred to the next president, who does not necessarily agree with [his predecessor] on anything or respect him, but that is irrelevant. The only thing [the former president] respects is the constitution and the democratic tradition, which he discharged with perfection.

"This tradition never ceases to amaze our people in this part of the globe and to make us wonder on a daily basis: why is it, and how can it be, that the U.S. has not managed to convey its democracy to us? Why is it that, when [democracy] reaches us, the picture is reversed? Is there a flaw in what [the U.S.] conveys to us, or is the flaw in us ourselves? The question we need to ask is: who are the Americans? Aren't they people from all over the world? And who is former president Barack Obama, if not one of us, the son of a Muslim immigrant from Africa? [This is the same Africa] where, on January 19, one day before Trump's inauguration, there was an attempt to inaugurate the [new] president of Gambia, who had won the presidential election fairly and honestly. But the former president refused to become 'former' and simply changed his mind and rejected the election results. The president-elect had no choice but to go to Senegal and be inaugurated at the Gambian embassy there. That is an amazing phenomenon that raises unanswerable questions."[2]





[1] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 22, 2017.

[2] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), January 22, 2017.

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