Can the monarchy save Libya?

The reality is that for countries that had a monarchical tradition or countries with populations divided along tribal lines, the Crown is the only viable solution to prevent savage warfare by the tribal population. Afghanistan, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Iraq would have benefited from this solution as did Spain under the extraordinary reign of King Juan Carlos or Cambodia with the restoration of King Norodom Sihanuk. Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania also benefited from the return of their sovereigns after a long exile. Though the monarchies in those countries have not been restored the Royal families play an active role.

Libya is another country that has been suffering a bloody civil war since the fall of General Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. The current intra-Libyan violent conflicts and ferocious rivalries has crippled the country. There is optimism now among the diplomatic and business communities over Libya’s future since the formation of the GNU. Such optimism is based on UN-sponsored talks breaking the political impasse of the past seven years and the ongoing October 2020 ceasefire between the eastern-based self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) and armed groups aligned with the former GNA in north-western Libya. Finally there is a date set for presidential and parliamentary elections for the 24th of December.

This is probably the last opportunity for peace and prosperity in the country as if it is not successful Libya may head to another civil war, this time ending in the country’s final fragmentation, flinging open the gates for a flood of terrorists into Libya and illegal immigrants to Europe. In other words, the potential for another Afghanistan is very real.

The blame for Libya’s predicament lies primarily with the failure of the US, along with its allies, to understand Libya’s history, beliefs and current idiosyncrasies. But now there is renewed hope of a solution. Such optimism led many European and neighbouring countries to either reopen their embassies in Tripoli or pledge to reopen them soon and businesses to consider re-entering the country or expanding their presence there but the big question is how to unite Libyans, in all their diversity, under a common banner so that the country can begin to move towards a stable society under the rule of law. The only viable solution so far seems to be a proposed constitutional monarchy put forward by former foreign minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz. The idea of establishing a monarchy with the Al-Senussi dynasty, he said, would be a “political umbrella”, which would serve as a “symbol of unity for the nation.”

Almost three-quarters of a century ago, following the defeat of the Axis forces in Libya during World War II, the international community was split on how to deal with Libya. Interestingly, the same major international players currently present on the scene were already there in the 1940s. The United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy were all competing for some amount of presence in the country. Turkey, now heavily involved in Libya, was not an influence, but only after several centuries of Ottoman domination of Libya, which ended with its surrender of the country to Italy in 1912.

Then as today, the stability of any of the three Libyan territories was dependent on their unity. Despite vast expanses of desert separating them, the three territories are closer to each other than to any neighbouring region. They have far too much connecting them demographically and culturally to be treated as separate entities and those days the solution was found with Emir Idris Al-Senussi. As Emir of Cyrenaica, and having garnered the allegiance of the people of Tripolitania in 1920, Idris was the only national figure who enjoyed both nationwide consensus and international confidence. Had it not been for King Idris, who was the right man at the right time, and the convergence between national and international interests, modern Libya would have never been born as a nation. The founding fathers of Libya were wise and put the interests of their fellow men before their own personal ones. They were conscious that none of the three provinces could survive apart from each other and the eighteen years that followed were an era of unity, stability, and prosperity, especially when compared to the Gaddafi era after he overthrew the monarchy.

Libya’s independence in 1951 was one of those rare examples of an auspicious confluence of national and international concerns and interests. The needs of a poor, occupied country for independence, economic support, stability, and unity were reconciled with the interests of the international powers.

The fact that the flag that united Libyans in their revolution against Ghaddafi was that of the 1st Kingdom of Libya. This is very significant and should be noted by all interested parties. The next presidential elections would benefit from a candidacy of a member of the Royal Family, of an Al-Senussi. A prominent member of the family who is a seasoned politician respected world-wide is Prince Idris Al-Senussi, cousin to Prince Mohammed Al-Senussi who is considered the Crown Prince of Libya.

Libyans are fed up with the long civil war of the post Ghaddafi era and the meddling of foreign powers in the internal affairs of the country. An AL Senussi candidate can become a unifying force above political strive and lead the Libyan nation to peace and prosperity and turn Libya into a model of tolerance, as well as a synthesis of the best of Islamic and modern political thought.

In the times of the reign of King Idris, the 1951 Constitution was drafted under the auspices of the UN and was seen to include significant mechanisms for the protection of human rights. The Magna Carta established an institutional apparatus that promoted transparency and safeguards against antidemocratic power accumulation. It envisioned mechanisms to guarantee accountability in the exercise of public functions and equality of all Libyan citizens before the law. At the time it was produced, it was received as a positive and forward-thinking model of good governance and balance of powers for the region.

Since Gadafi’s coup d’Etat, Libya has been fragmented and divided across the fabric of society. An Al-Senussi candidate as an apolitical figure, exempt from party loyalties can play a crucial role in disseminating ideas of peace, inclusion, trust and compromise and become an arbitrator, ensure the protection of the minorities, attract international investment, boost growth, increase living standards and form a government of national reconciliation.

If this is achieved it will be up to the Libyans once they live in peace to decide if they want to create the II Kingdom of Libya without any foreign interference. We must not forget that after failing to establish a Western-style democracy in Iraq, it is fair to suggest that the US might have thought twice before applying a similar recipe elsewhere in the Middle East. Iraq would not be in the state of chaos it finds itself in if the Hashemite monarchy had been restored.

In the 21st century, the monarchical institution, more than ever, may be the only effective solution to resolve armed conflicts resulting from the vicissitudes of politics, given that the Crown stands above these vicissitudes and acts as a nexus between all the different political currents. Politically, it would be difficult for the United States to support a political system not based on Washington’s idealized concept of democracy, but it is hard to deny that the idea has merit. Perhaps it is time for the United States to recognize reality and give constitutional monarchy a chance.

The supporters of the monarchy as a solution want a return to the 1951 Constitution. This text established a unified kingdom composed of three regions each benefiting from a large degree of autonomy and a king responsible for façade unity. In my view this solution is the preamble to peace and prosperity for the war torn country.

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