Following the fragmentation and infighting that ravaged Arab societies in the aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring, Arabs appear to be back at square one.
With its wars, armed gangs and jihadist and Islamist groups, Libya serves as the best example of post-Arab Spring chaos, even before we consider its regional divisions, with Cyrenaica seeking independence, Tripoli rejecting secession and Fezzan still waiting to see what happens.
In the light of the total chaos that saw the abduction of the prime minister, Ali Zeidan, by a supposedly governmental body, the Libyans no longer recognize any national political authority.
Against this background, repeated calls these days for the restoration of the monarchy under the Senussi dynasty are understandable.
The Senussi dynasty in Libya has been a symbol of national unity since the days of the Grand Senussi, Muhammad Ibn Ali Al-Senussi, the founder of the Senussi approach and its religious Sufi order. The Grand Senussi promoted a reforming religious culture across Libya and beyond, in North Africa, the Sahara oases and Egypt. It should also be mentioned that the Senussi order was founded in Mecca.
Following a bitter conflict with the Italians and the division of Libya into Tripoli, Benghazi and Fezzan, the Libyans unanimously chose Idris Al-Senussi, the then-leader of the Senussi order to lead them. In Benghazi in December 1951, Prince Senussi announced the independence and establishment of the Kingdom of Libya.
In 1969, Muammar Gaddafi and his friends staged a coup against the king and abolished the monarchy. Gaddafi moved from being a president to being the leader and then the “king of kings,” and continued with this futile attitude until he died in an almost surreal, pointless manner.
The Saudi Okaz newspaper on Tuesday quoted the Libyan foreign minister, Mohamed Abdulaziz, as saying that the restoration of the monarchy in Libya had become a subject of debate in Libya’s political scene. He said the reinstatement of the Senussi dynasty was the solution to Libya’s problems and that it would guarantee the return of security and stability to Libya.
Senussi’s grandson and heir apparent, Prince Mohamed Hassan Al-Rida Al-Senussi, said in an interview with the BBC that monarchy could not work in post-revolutionary Libya. According to Senussi, Libyans had certain rights and demands, but the restoration of the monarchy was not one of them, adding that on a personal level he did not have any desire to rule the country.
The young Senussi was right to refrain from responding to such calls—not because the Senussi monarchy is not the solution, but because there are no guarantees of its success, and times have changed.
There is no evidence that this nostalgia for the monarchy stems from deep-seated conviction. The era of the monarchy had both its positive and negative aspects, but it was better than an era of chaos. This is not the first time such a call has been issued in the Arab region. Similar calls were made in Iraq following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and they appear every now and then in Egypt. Outside the Islamic world, Spain restored its monarchy after the disaster of the Spanish Civil War.
Arabs’ nostalgia for monarchy points to the shallow roots of European-style democracy.