The election law favors pro-regime constituencies, to be found mainly in tribal and rural areas and in the smaller towns, over the more opposition-oriented and dominated bigger cities in various ways. The functioning of political parties is severely hampered because of state policies that confine the former’s activities to the sphere of “political society” in the narrowest sense, while, at the same time, severely circumscribing their activities in the “civil society” – i.e. in terms of voluntary associations and public, grassroots activity. Holding demonstrations and public meetings by citizens, in general, is subjected to severe restrictions as well. In each case, the provincial government should give prior written permission. If the authorities feel that the meeting or demonstration implies protest against the government’s own policies or against that of allies, permission is on the whole denied. In such cases, the authorities feel to allow people to let off some steam. Sometimes, protest meetings are only allowed to take place within the premises of the organizing institutions, such as political parties or professional associations, which greatly lessens their public impact. Citizens who defy the ban on a demonstration or a public meeting risk arrest, interrogation, and sometimes physical abuse or torture.
Similar restrictions are suffered by the press. While journalists are considerably freer than they were before the start of the liberalization process, laws relating to the press stipulate limits to press freedoms that ensure journalists generally practice self-censorship. Needless to say, such vaguely formulated red lines make journalists think twice before pursuing potentially controversial topics. When a paper receives a “sensitive” news story through a news agency, a reporter often contacts a senior official requesting a comment on the matter. The paper might put the official’s comment as a lead to the original story. In other instances, “sensitive stories” are published on inside pages or added to other stories. Since the government owns a major interest in the country’s main daily newspapers, the latter usually refrain from publishing material that is critical of government policy. The privately-owned weekly newspapers may be more daring in this regard, depending on their chief editors. But they must also take the views of government officials regarding the publication of certain topics into account. If not, the journalist or (chief) editor in question risks being arrested, imprisoned and interrogated. Defying the wishes of the authorities in these matters can lead to the closure of the newspaper in question.
In an attempt to describe historically the evolution of the regime’s attitude to society, we must note that a combination of factors has produced, on the one hand, a pattern marked by authoritarian control, and, on the other, sensitivity toward various interests and ideological viewpoints emanating from within society. Internal stability could not be achieved by exercising repression and coercion alone, though this has often formed a significant part of the regime’s repertoire. Needs and interests in wider society have to be satisfied (or at least placated), and the various segments of society co-opted whenever possible. The state can co-opt the population by simply distributing goods and services. Thus, it grants subsidies on basic social goods commodities and the provision of public sector jobs. Accordingly, popular participation in politics and freedoms could be “bought off” by satisfying popular desires in the realm of consumption and economic prosperity.
PATRONAGE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
The new form of cooptation leaves the basic patron-client relationship between state and society intact or perhaps even reinforces it. The regime allows autonomous spaces in the society, such as tribal structures, professional associations, voluntary associations, political parties, and movements, to continue to exist. As part of the same process, it regularly listens to opinions and complaints emanating from this civil society and occasionally consults civil forces (such as professional associations) in order to defuse socio-political tensions and unrest. However, the reins of public and political life remain firmly in the hands of the state. Thus, the regime defines the nature of acceptable and responsible attitudes and social good expressions in the public sphere, and it alone determines their limits. Yet, the laws and regulations defining those limits are so vague in content that they provide state authorities with considerable leeway to step in when they deem it necessary. Hence, if members of a voluntary association engage “unlawfully” in political activity, if a newspaper editorial criticizes the regime of a neighboring country, or if a peaceful demonstration is considered politically dangerous, the state can exercise its right to act punitively. All dealings of the state with the forces of civil society have the safeguarding of the monarchical regime and its hegemony over society as the ultimate objective.
Regime survival requires a certain measure of communication with forces from (civil) society so that the state will not be alienated from what is going on at the grassroots and thereby lose its ability to control and manage them. This implies that the regime is open to suggestions or criticism from civic institutions such as professional associations or human rights groups only when this accords with its own power interests and its own top-down agenda of political, social, and economic modernization. At times, state authorities display contradictory attitudes toward local civil society institutions. This is due to the fact that, in many cases, the state itself is caught up between conflicting internal as well as external interests. Take the example of favoritism, a widespread practice within the state apparatus. By allowing this practice to continue, the regime co-opts the native tribal population, thereby cultivating an important pillar of regime support. However, the emergence of a globalizing and knowledge-based economy requires an efficient and professionally working state apparatus that transparently hires persons solely on a meritocratic basis.
SOCIAL GOOD MESSAGE
Sparrows by morning, live in peaceful nests! Design shouldn’t dominate things, shouldn’t dominate people. It should help people. Don’t spend your time solving your favorite problems, solve problems that need to be solved, generically. A home is a place where you live, and society is a place where your story begins. Honesty shares honesty, as it is honesty’s nature. Stay always in Ablution and get back to the trust you have been, with.