Shadows of the Middle East: Does ‘Loyal Opposition’ offer lessons for the region?
The MBI Al Jaber Foundation Lecture Series started 2015 with the third talk of the programme presented by Nigel Fletcher, the Founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Opposition Studies. Nigel, currently researching a doctoral thesis on Parliamentary Opposition at King’s College London, established the Opposition Studies Forum, which became the Centre for Opposition Studies in 2010. The Centre, which was established to promote the study of political opposition, has led a number of FCO-funded projects aimed at developing understanding of these issues in the MENA region.
In his presentation of this fascinating and complex subject, Nigel traced the development of the concept of ‘Loyal Opposition’ in Britain, making the point that in any democratic system of government, the opposition is at least as important to understanding the process of politics and government as those in power. The Opposition are the constitutional critics of all public affairs, their function being to scrutinise and state the case against the administration.
So what are the lessons for the Middle East? Nigel emphasised that the development and maintenance of a loyal, constitutional opposition requires many shared values, compromise and goodwill amongst political actors. The development of ideas underpinning ‘Loyal Opposition’ are developed over a long period of time ‘forged in the fires of rebellion, wars and crises’ and that realistically, it would be difficult to short-circuit the process. Nigel said how very tempting it is for those involved in democratic development work overseas to want to drop a fully-formed constitution onto a nation and expect it to transform overnight into a fully-fledged liberal democracy – even though this has been discredited throughout history.
For more of Nigel Fletcher’s lecture, please go to our YouTube channel at:
PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE
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