x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Going once …

Tunisia's new government has organised an auction of the contents of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's palaces. There is always a market for this stuff.

Deposed or defunct dictators seem to leave three distinct types of legacy. First comes their last gift to their nation: a dysfunctional administration, a looted economy and a truculent (or rebellious) population. Then there's what they leave, or try to leave, to their children and cronies: Swiss bank accounts, nice jewels, castles in Spain. And finally there's the tat.

Almost two years after Tunisia's unloved President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country, the new government there has organised an auction of the contents of his palaces: two Lamborghini Gallardos and 37 other luxury cars, rare clocks, chandeliers, artworks, gold-plated statuettes …

There's always a market for this stuff. Early this year Romania auctioned off Nicolae Ceausescu's memorabilia, including a bronze yak, the gift of Mao Zedong. A gold-plated revolver made for Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua (deposed 1979, murdered 1980) once fetched over Dh20,000 at auction. Shoes left behind by Imelda Marcos brought as much as Dh37,500 per pair. And so on.

The full catalogue for the Tunisian auction will bear close attention. Bad taste may not be an actual job requirement for dictators, but it does somehow seem to go with the job.