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[Dehai-WN] Worldsecuritynetwork.com: The Arab Spring revisited: How the Arab Monarchies can survive

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2012 01:04:08 +0100

The Arab Spring revisited: How the Arab Monarchies can survive
written by:
<http://www.worldsecuritynetwork.com/_dsp/dsp_authorBio3.cfm?authID=6> Prof.
Dr. Ludger Kuehnhardt,


ID=67> &topicID=67

Revolutions are not processes of social engineering. They unfold as an
intrinsically unpredictable flow of events. Structurally, revolutions will
go through phases, often through contradictory periods. Hardly any
revolution will evolve without turbulences and phases of consolidation. And:
Revolutions do not happen without moments of stagnation, surprising
advancement and unexpected transformation.


The beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011 has not been of a different nature.
It started as a fundamental surprise to most, took different turns in
different countries and was far from being over by the end of 2011.
Transatlantic partners are fully aware of the stark differences among Arab
countries. They realize the genuine nature of each nation's struggle for
democracy. Yet, they are inclined to take the Western experience with
democracy as key bench mark for judging current progress in the Arab world.
The constitutional promise of the US or the success of the peaceful
revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe in 1989/90 is inspiring, yet also
calls for caution in judging and projecting the Arab Spring. Preconditions
have to be taken into account. Beside, the history of Europe's 19th and 20th
century also suggest room for failure in the process of moving toward rule
of law and participatory democracy. Some cynics have already suggested that
the Arab Spring could be followed by an Arab Autumn or even Winter. Even if
one discards such previsions as inappropriate self-fulfilling prophecy,
certain European experiences should probably not be forgotten:

* In the 1830s, Germany experienced its own Spring toward pluralism
and democracy, then called “Vormärz”. That German spring movement ("Sturm
und Drang") was essentially a cultural uprising without the follow-up of
transformational political change.

* In 1848, across Europe revolutionary upheavals promoted the hope for
an early parliamentary constitutionalism across the continent. In most
places, this hope was soon to be replaced by variants of a restrictive
consolidation of the ancient regimes.

* In 1989, the experience of Romania deviated strongly from most of
the peaceful revolutions across Europe. Ousting and even killing the former
dictator was a camouflage for the old regime to prevail for almost another
decade. While the rest of Central and South Eastern Europe struggled with
regime change and renewal, Romania prolonged regime atrophy and resistance
to renewal.

No matter what direction the Arab Spring may take in the months and years
ahead, two trends are startling for now:

1. The Arab Spring has initiated a wide range of different reactions and
trends in each of the Arab countries. The assumption of a homogenous Arab
world has become a myth. Likewise, the assumption of permanently stagnant
and immobile Arab societies has become a myth. The quest for dignity, voice
and inclusion under rule of law and a true structure of social pluralism has
been the signature of peaceful protest all over the Arab world. The
reactions of incumbent regimes have demonstrated a variety of strategies,
but also different levels of strength, legitimacy and criminal energy.

2. Most surprising has been the relative resilience of the Arab monarchies
to the Arab Spring: Morocco and Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Oman, Kuwait and
the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain have been reasonably unaffected
and stable (in spite of the temporary clashes in Bahrain and their
oppression with the help of Saudi-Arabia’s army).While the quest for
dignity, voice and inclusion has posed a challenge to all regimes in the
Arab world, Arab monarchies emerged relatively undisturbed from the first
wave of popular unrest and protest. This contrasts with the protest against
personal rule in most Arab republics: The flight of a corrupt President
whose security apparatus was no longer predictable (Tunisia), the arrest of
a deposed President who seemed to be in fullest command of its security
apparatus, but could not maintain support of his army (Egypt), the
semi-deposition of a ruler who was torn between security factions and split
traditional loyalties (Yemen), the criminal attack on its own people by the
security forces loyal to a beleaguered President (Syria), the oppression of
all potential unrest by an old regime still in its last sight of absolute
power (Algeria), and the launching of a war by a delegitimized ruler against
his own people (Libya) were variations of a complex theme across Arab
republics. Lebanon has been a special case for years, with its own
transformational revolution (“Cedar Revolution”) going on since 2005. Iraq
and Sudan have also been of a unique character due to their specific
domestic and geopolitical constellation.

How can one explain the almost paradoxical phenomenon that hereditary
monarchies - at least for the time being - seem to be less affected by the
protest against personal rule and patrimonial authoritarianism that has
resonated across the Arab world? One initial observation is undeniable:
Saudi-Arabia is particularly interested in supporting Arab monarchies and it
is doing so with an enormous amount of money. In fact, Saudi Arabia may even
be interested in preventing too far-reaching democratization in Arab
republics. But the vested interests of the Saudi family alone do not explain
why Arab monarchies tend to be more resilient to the current wave of protest
to be heard all over the Arab world. One has to go beyond the obvious and
look for structural explanations. Most evident - and well beyond the Arab
world - is the fact that power based on traditional legitimacy continues to
play a stabilizing role in the transformation of societies and their
political systems. Usually, republican authoritarian personal rule built on
a political ideology (i.e. independence, socialism, nationalism,
development) can only be maintained through a security apparatus and the
pressure it can exert on a rising popular demand for change. In contrast,
traditional hereditary rule seems to be able to maintain power with more
respect, possibly even with acquired legitimacy, and with lesser need for
the exercise of violence against its own citizens. The most interesting
question stemming from this observation is as follows: do we know what it
may take for monarchies to be successful over time? It is not enough to
simply recall the religious rooting of Arab monarchical legitimacy as it is
especially the case in Saudi-Arabia and in Morocco. No matter their
religious or similar moral-based authority: The historic record of
monarchies confronted with the pressure for change is mixed. Reference to
traditional religious sources of legitimacy has not been enough for several
monarchies to survive the winds of change their societies where confronted
with. While going beyond this perspective, several insights into the nature
of hereditary rule that has stood the test of societal change are pertinent
and may serve as a useful mirror to be kept in mind as the future path of
hereditary rule in the Arab world is unfolding.


The historic record of hereditary rule when confronted with the challenges
of social, political or economic transformation or even revolution has not
been all too impressive. From the 17th century (Great Britain) to the 19th
century (France, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico) and to 20th century
(Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia, China, Greece,
Cambodia, Persia, Nepal, Egypt, Libya, Iraq) more monarchies were toppled
than rebuild whenever their societies were fundamentally transformed. The
current European hereditary monarchies (United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway,
Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Luxemburg, Monaco, Liechtenstein)
as well as non-European monarchies (Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei,
Bhutan, Cambodia, Tonga, Lesotho, Swaziland plus the Arab monarchies) are
rather the exception to the rule – the global trend seems to favor
republican political order as the answer to socio-economic and political
modernization. However, restorations in Great Britain (17th century) and in
Spain (20th century) as well as the transformation of Imperial rule in Japan
after 1945 indicate the potential for the revival of hereditary rule in
times of great upheaval. The panorama of an ongoing survival of almost two
dozen monarchies and systems of hereditary rules should not forget the more
than two thousand year old electoral monarchy of the Catholic Church. After
all, the Pope is also head of state of the Vatican.

What are the main lessons to be drawn from the survival or revival of
hereditary rule elsewhere that could be of inspirational insight for the
future of contemporary Arab hereditary rulers?

1. No warfare with or threat of violence toward any neighbor. Consolidated
monarchies across the world have recognized the legitimacy of borders and
the sovereign rights of their neighbors. This, in turn, has helped
consolidated monarchies to stay out of international conflicts over
territory or power.

For Arab monarchies, this global experience would imply that for the sake of
their own interest they would be well advised to search for peace with
Israel; to recognize Israel and to facilitate a two-state solution which
would allow Israel to live in security and an independent Palestinian State
to live in decency without any border dispute between either of the two
states and between them and the Arab monarchies.

2. Turn from a rule of fear into a symbol of respect and national unity.
Consolidated monarchies have been able to disconnect the court from the
national security apparatus and to project themselves as benevolent symbol
of national unity, sometimes coupled with a certain religious authority.

For Arab monarchies, this global experience would imply to transfer security
forces and the military to full parliamentary control; to initiate
lustration processes aimed at bringing to justice past crimes of the
security apparatus without deconstructing the security apparatus as such; to
introduce strict rule of law also over all security forces and military
authorities without sidelining them from the future processes of society and

3. Separate authority from power. Consolidated monarchies have decoupled
their traditional authority from the daily business of politics and the
structure of national power. They have accepted an independent government
and parliamentary rule as the main source of national political power.
Consolidated monarchies have surrendered their power to constitutional rule
and thus maintained their symbolic and traditional authority.

For Arab monarchies, this global experience would imply to empower
parliamentary governance through a prime ministerial system with full
accountability to the respective parliamentary majority; to terminate the
appointment of prime ministers or members of parliaments, including the
Upper House; to initiate a process of rewriting the national constitution
aimed at properly organizing a new national consensus framed by a
constitution-based parliamentary monarchy.

4. Disassociate personal wealth from the wealth of the country. In
consolidated monarchies, the personal budget of the monarch and the court
has been disconnected from the sources of wealth of the country. The budget
of today's monarchs may still be less accountable than other elements of
public spending, but the allocation of the court's budget in consolidated
monarchies is no longer based on the ruler's arbitrary access to public

For Arab monarchies, this global experience would imply to separate state
funds from the funds available for the monarch and his entourage; to install
parliamentary control over the allocation of resources for the hereditary
sovereign and a solid system of accountability for auditing these resources.


The path to constitutional and parliamentary monarchy among those countries
that have been able to successfully transform from personal rule to
parliamentary monarchy has always been long and often arduous. In most
cases, it went through similar stages, worth being recalled as the Arab
Spring unfolds.

1. Originally, personal rule was based on control of territory and people.
Gradually, intermediary elites were installed by the ruler or emerged
against the initial will of the ruler. In a long process, they advanced the
notion of legal rule over personal rule (i.e. Magna Carta). Arab hereditary
monarchs would be well advised to respond to the quest for freedom and
justice from within their citizenry with a sustained support of independent
legal structures.

2. The growing diversification of economic activities - especially the
emergence of capital-based production and division of labor - generated
functional elites (bankers, owners of trading houses and production) with
growing demand for political inclusion and participation. Arab hereditary
monarchs would be well advised to support the establishment of independent
representation of functional elites (including business associations and
trade unions) recognized as a genuine sphere of open and legitimate
political discourse with the objective to fully participate in the public
policy dialogue.

3. The claims of a new bourgeoisie for political inclusion led to an
advanced rule of law and opened the way for democratic participation which
in turn stabilized the socio-political system (middle class). Arab
hereditary monarchs would be well advised to do their utmost to help their
societies moving beyond the prevailing oligarchic structures, often of a
rent-seeking mindset. It is here that the experience of Turkey's economic
development may be a source of inspiration for the transformation necessary
in the Arab world, beyond the Arab monarchies.

4. Time and again, parliamentary rule came under pressure by the aspiration
of personal rule in the name of contingent social, cultural and intellectual
ideas and ideologies. However, no republican dictator was ever able to
exercise the “natural” features of traditional rule over such a long time
that he could translate his rule into legitimate hereditary succession.
Today, North Korea’s ruling family and the ruling family of Assad in Syria –
and in a limited way the regimes of Kabila in Congo and of Ali Bongo in
Gabon – are the exception to this rule. Yet, these contemporary hereditary
dictatorships have been unable to generate legitimacy for their specific
version of authoritarian or pseudo-democratic hereditary succession. A
democratic exception to this phenomenon is provided by the current situation
in Singapore: the first prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s son is the countries
respected and legitimate third Prime Minister, Lee Hysien Loong. Arab
hereditary monarchs would be well advised to disconnect any family member
from public offices that ought to be mandated by the authorized government
which, in turn, should be held accountable by the respective parliament.

5. Most personal and patrimonial rulers in post-colonial societies did
resort to similar mechanisms of maintaining their position: patronage,
clientelism, theft, corruption, crime and violence usually were the most
prominent features. As republican dictators are lacking the features of
traditional authority, they try to resort to charismatic rule, violence and
coercion, none of which can generate the necessary features required for
transition toward legitimate hereditary succession. Arab hereditary monarchs
would be well advised to match political openness and transparency with
personal modesty and decency in spending behavior.

For now, the strongest source of authority of contemporary monarchies in the
Arab world (and elsewhere) is the traditional legitimacy attributed to their
rule. Besides a reflection on the insights drawn from other consolidated
monarchies in today's world, the current Arab hereditary rulers would be
well advised to address key structural challenges that are vital for a
peaceful and sustainable transformation in their respective society:

1. Consolidate open spaces in which a pluralistic civil society can thrive.
Relate these open spaces to the political arena and include open political
spaces into the national dialogue on constitutional reform.

2. Rehabilitate the authority of the public sphere by promoting multi-party
systems. Election thresholds of 3 to 5 percent ought to guarantee that these
multi-party systems help consolidating the new constitutional consensus.

3. Promote strong legal sector reforms including all levels of the judiciary
and the penitentiary system. Initiate public education programs that raise
the awareness of the primacy of rule of law over any system of personal
patronage, coercion or arbitrariness.

4. Most importantly: Promote private investment – both domestic and
international - with the prime aim of providing sustainable employment
opportunities for the young generation. In the end, only a stable middle
class based on qualified and appropriate means of education and vocational
training can guarantee long-term stability in any Arab society.


The Arab Spring has opened a new chapter in the political history of the
Arab world. The outcome is far from predictable. It may vary from country to
country and it may drag on with different speed and intensity for years, if
not for decades. But a beginning has been made thanks to the courage of
non-violent people, who want to revitalize their societies on the basis of
dignity, freedom and justice. In a geopolitical context, the historic
opportunity which the Arab Spring represents will, at least, lead to two
fundamental reconfigurations:

1. The traditional prejudice according to which Africa is divided between
North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa will fall. The issue of overcoming
personal rule and introducing constitutional change aimed at enabling rule
of law-based pluralistic democracy is as pertinent in most of Sub-Saharan
Africa as it is in the Arab World. In both regions the issue reflects the
deficits of post-colonial politics. Hence, the uprising of the Arab Spring
has been watched with great intensity in Sub-Saharan Africa, with enthusiasm
among young people and with worry among some of the petrified post-colonial
elites. The Arab Spring will repeat itself in several sub-Saharan societies.
There, it will most likely bring about the same mixed picture of success,
stagnation and failure as we see in the Arab world. Thus, it will support
the trend (and the need) for a differentiated perception of Africa. Instead
of continuously and erroneously imagining Africa as one, the long-term
constitutional effect of the Arab Spring will help to distinguish between an
emerging Africa of successful political transformation beyond the
post-colonial era, and a stagnating Africa that remains trapped in
post-colonial structures of personal rule and patrimonialism.

2. Transatlantic partners will have to re-define their strategies toward the
Arab world. Neither policies of fear and stereotypes based on distorted
notions of identity nor attitudes of benevolent paternalism will help to
redefine American and European relations with the Arab societies and their
emerging new political structures. Transatlantic partners need to engage the
Arab world – and eventually Africa, too – into a comprehensive agenda of

As for the transatlantic partners, it will be necessary to move beyond the
traditional security paradigm. For a long time, Arab monarchies were
considered Western security partners based on geopolitical considerations
with little consideration for domestic issues. In the future, the Arab
monarchies can be stable security partners of the West if their legitimate
domestic stability provides the ground for predictable international
behavior. The necessary transformation processes will accompany Arab
hereditary rulers for many years to come. Transatlantic partners ought to
engage Arab monarchies in multifold processes of transformation aimed at
advancing the reality of consolidated, legitimate and modernized monarchies
that eventually accept the frame of parliamentary constitutionalism. The
notion of parliamentary monarchy may be new to Arab hereditary systems. It
is, however, not impossible to achieve such a stage as other monarchies
around the world have proven. In fact, it may well be the only realistic
option for Arab monarchies to prevail over time.

Currently, the transatlantic partners pursue independent strategies of
cooperation with the Arab world. In spite of a strong normative overlap,
their strategies also represent different interests and genuine approaches.
The enormous challenge of the current opening of the Arab political space
should be seen as a golden opportunity for both the United States and the
European Union to define a joint strategy of their future engagement with
the Arab world. Its formative ideas should be transformation and legitimacy,
its long term objectives stability and partnership, and its driving
instruments geared at promoting civil society and the private sector.

Some monarchies went through stages of transformation that stretched over
centuries. The hereditary rulers in the Arab world may not have so much
time. What is truly new of the events of 2011 is the spirit of the Arab
Spring: self-empowerment of Arab societies, bringing back dignity and hope
to frustrated and marginalized societies, enabling millions of citizens to
act as proud, self-confident and open partners of their neighbors. This
might only be the first step in a long, complex and often vexed journey.
Currently, the main focus among transatlantic partners is on the future of
Arab republics which are torn between the most extreme possible scenarios.
Some may think that Arab monarchies will be the last to reform and hence can
be neglected right now. There are good reasons to argue for the opposite.
Unreformed Arab monarchies could undermine any progress currently made in
Arab republics. But reformed, transformed and consolidated Arab monarchies
could become reliable agents for change and legitimacy in a renewed Arab


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