• Thursday, Aug 06, 2020
  • Last Update : 03:31 pm

The flip-side of nonagenarian politicians

  • Published at 05:50 pm October 3rd, 2018
So many promises to keep
So many promises to keep / REUTERS

Dictators always make the mistake of not walking away when the going is good

Robert Mugabe and Dr Mahathir Mohammad may both be long-serving politicians, but are chalk and cheese in terms of their approaches. 

Mahathir retired from politics while Mugabe had to be deposed, even though it was with sugar-coated benefits and essentially no accountability for corruption and other misdemeanours. 

Mahathir chose to make a return to politics this time, leading the opposition to his original party and befriending the same Anwar Ibrahim he jailed for sodomy. 

For all the pushing and prodding, Ibrahim has stuck to his patriotic stance of assisting Mahathir take action against former Prime Minister Najif, accused of several counts of corruption. 

The deal involves Ibrahim taking over the premiership two years down the line, by which time Mahathir hopes to have straightened out the ills that plague Malaysia. 

These two years will be watched with interest given the large scale change on the world stage and the challenge of tackling anomalies that were pre-existing from Mahathir’s times.

Robert Mugabe has refused to endorse his hand-picked successor in the recent elections that have been legally challenged without any assurance, as to the outcome. 

The accusations of rigging and anomalies are no different from the Mugabe-era elections, suggesting that the party in power hasn’t changed its colours without Mugabe. 

Dictators -- even democratic dictators -- always make the same mistake -- never walking away while the going is good or gradually handing over to an acceptable successor. India’s BJP moved away from “septuagenarian to nonagenarian” leadership to choose Narendra Modi for his charisma over young voters. 

From all indications, he’s headed for re-election, unless something startling happens in between. And Modi has not held back from emerging with his own agenda, rather than continuing party policies.

Mugabe has little to no chance of re-entering Zimbabwe politics, Mahathir has entered avowedly to “save” his country from going down under. Malaysians have re-imposed their faith in him, and time will tell whether he finishes his assignment and walks away. 

Modi appears to have a longer-term agenda in the midst of a weak and divided opposition. He has reached out to his neighbours, and also rapped them on the knuckles, leaving fewer happy neighbourhoods. 

Bangladesh has been his one true success in terms of relationships and maximization of benefits wrested. This has come not in reciprocal form, but more of a set of promises that haven’t yet seen the light of day. 

Our prime minister has been patient and sagacious in not allowing herself to be rattled. But there will come a time when she too must ask, for the country’s sake, what the equation has solved.

Zimbabwe has further ground to lose; Malaysia has a chance to recover; Bangladesh has neither the time nor the preponderance for tardiness. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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