Sara Zouiten

Acknowledging the challenges ahead, Mohammed El Senussi remains optimistic, drawing parallels with Libya’s post-World War II recovery.

A country with a rich history that stretches back centuries, Libya has faced numerous challenges on its journey toward stability and democratic governance in past decades. 

In a recent interview with Morocco World News, the Crown Prince of Libya’s former kingdom, Mohammed El-Senoussi, articulated a vision for the country’s future, drawing on its historical roots and emphasizing the importance of a Libyan-led solution to the lingering Libyan crisis.

El-Senoussi highlighted key elements, including the historical foundation of Libya’s pre-1969 parliamentary democracy, the potential reinstatement of the 1951 Independence Constitution, the significance of the ongoing Libyan National Dialogue, and the role of the international community in supporting Libya’s path to self-determination.

Rediscovering Libya’s Democratic Heritage

Before the 1969 coup that ousted King Idris, Mohammed El-Senoussi’s grand-uncle, Libya experienced a period of parliamentary democracy under the 1951 Independence Constitution. 

El Senussi highlighted the importance of this historical foundation, emphasizing the democratic credentials established through a national dialogue process that fostered “unity and consensus across the country.”

The 1951 Constitution established a constitutional monarchy, featuring an elected parliament and a bicameral legislature, reflecting a commitment to representation, checks and balances, and citizen participation. 

The constitution also granted women the right to vote for the first time in Libya. “In fact, women had the right to vote in Libya before they did in Switzerland and Portugal,” the Crown Prince said.

“There are many models of democratic constitutional monarchy in the world today including in Sweden, the United Kingdom, Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Japan. Each evolved from, and is consistent with, the country’s own history, culture, and national identity. It was the same in Libya,” he explained.

King Idris, who had ruled Libya since its independence in 1951, was overthrown in 1969 in a military coup led by Muammar Gaddafi. This was followed by the proclamation of the Libyan Arab Republic, with Gaddafi emerging as the de facto leader of the country. 

Gaddafi ruled for more than four decades until the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, which eventually led to his ousting and the subsequent power vacuum and conflicts that have plagued Libya in the post-Gaddafi era.

Since the fall of Gaddafi, Libya has struggled with political instability, armed conflicts, and fragmentation. The country has experienced a lack of a centralized government, with competing factions and militias vying for power and control.

Libya has been divided between two main political entities; the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar.

To solve Libya’s ongoing challenges of fragmentation and political instability, the Crown Prince proposes reinstating the 1951 constitution as a “logical starting point” for re-establishing democracy, citing its success in fostering stability during what he described as Libya’s “Golden Era.” 

Benefits of Reinstating the 1951 Constitution

El-Senoussi sees reinstating the 1951 Independence Constitution as a transformative step toward addressing contemporary challenges, saying that “restoring this constitution could concretely help in several ways.”

He outlined several benefits, including “legitimacy and consensus,” saying that the constitution could serve as a “unifying factor,” providing a shared historical and legal framework to garner support from diverse factions and address political fragmentation.

The Crown Prince added that the constitution outlines democratic processes, including elections, parliamentary roles, and the separation of powers, facilitating a return to democratic norms and practices.

By reinstating the constitution, El-Senoussi added, the country can reintroduce checks and balances, preventing the concentration of power and authoritarian tendencies.

Above all, he argued that returning to a known and established constitutional framework would “mitigate uncertainty,” providing a stable foundation for governance and reducing potential power struggles.

In addition, he said that returning to the 1951 Constitution would signal a commitment to democratic principles, potentially gaining international recognition and support.

The Constitution provides a mechanism for parliamentary-led amendments, ensuring its adaptability to address modern challenges while maintaining its core principles, the Crown Prince explained.

When asked about his vision for a transition process toward a constitutional monarchy, he drew parallels with the challenges Libya faced immediately after World War II, envisioning it as a complex but achievable journey.

The Crown Prince highlighted the historical context of Italian colonization, the impact of the war, and the enduring tribal, regional, and ethnic affiliations. He emphasized that the country successfully navigated these difficulties which are similar to what it is currently facing, saying that “Libya found a way out to herald in its Golden Era immediately after.”

The key to overcoming these challenges, El-Senoussi argued, lies in Libya “relying on its own cultural and historic norms, falling back on its own national identity, to implement political processes and constructs that had intrinsic legitimacy.” 

National Dialogue and Achieving Libyan Unity

Recognizing the complexity of Libya’s current political landscape, El Senussi emphasized the importance of the Libyan National Dialogue as a mechanism for national reconciliation and unity. 

The dialogue, which El-Senoussi initiated, aims to bring together diverse stakeholders, including tribal, political, and cultural leaders, fostering consensus on the constitutional framework for the way forward. 

The crown prince noted that the National Dialogue is already showing promise in addressing fragmentation, mitigating external interference, and promoting security and stability throughout the transition process. 

Referring to the restoration of the constitution, El-Senoussi said: “The success of such an endeavor relies heavily on the willingness of various factions to engage in dialogue, compromise, and abide by the democratic processes outlined in the constitution, something which is being addressed by the new Libyan National Dialogue which I am in the midst of convening, and which is showing great promise.”

He argued that national dialogue, organized in phases, prioritizes “inclusivity, reconciliation, legitimacy and national unity built on a celebration of Libya’s diversity and national identity.”

Although some may believe that the approach is insufficient, the crown prince acknowledged, it is essential to stress that “through a ‘Libyan lens,’ it has a tremendous track record of success and is already showing great promise.”

“After years of failed political experimentation this is perhaps now the only approach that can succeed,” he emphasized, noting that the dialogue has received widespread endorsement from many Libyans.

The ultimate goal of this dialogue, El-Senoussi argued, is “bringing unity and stability to Libya.”

Tailoring Democracy to Libya

Reflecting on the UN’s role in Libya between 1949 and 1951, the crown prince acknowledged that recent international interventions have faced challenges due to a lack of alignment with Libya’s historical and cultural context. 

“It took 2 years (1949 – 1951) to set Libya on a constructive and democratic path when Libya faced similar challenges to today. This time, after 12 years, the international community has arguably made things worse,” El-Senoussi stressed.

He called for a shift in approach, urging the international community to support authentically Libyan-led initiatives, giving the example of the National Dialogue. He emphasized the need for initiatives consistent with Libyan history, culture, and national identity, which can foster intra-Libyan reconciliation and sustainable solutions.

“A completely Western-style liberal democracy was not designed for and is not suitable for tribal or factional societies like Libya. We need a democracy that works because it fits our make-up. It is no different elsewhere,” El-Senoussi explained.

For him, the decades-long Libyan crisis cannot be truly or sustainably resolved without an “authentically Libyan-led solution that is inclusive and not designed around narrow internal and external interests should by now be self-evident to the international community.”

Balancing International Support and National Autonomy

As Maintaining a delicate balance between international support and national autonomy is crucial for Libya, El Senussi proposed an approach based on inclusive diplomacy, where diverse Libyan voices actively contribute to decision-making processes.

By defining clear national priorities, setting boundaries, and ensuring mutual respect in partnerships, Libya can “retain control over its destiny while benefiting from collaborative efforts,” he said. 

But this can only happen if and when ordinary citizens are empowered to actively participate in shaping Libya’s future, the crown prince stressed. As such, he added, there is a crucial need for fostering civil society organizations, integrating inclusive decision-making processes within the government, ensuring access to information, utilizing technology for broader participation, enacting legal frameworks for citizen input, and maintaining transparent governance.

“Inclusivity was at the heart of the Independence Constitution and the governance structure it established and will need to be at the heart of any governance structure going forward to ensure success,” the crown prince argued.

In considering Libya’s role in the broader North African and Middle Eastern context, Crown Prince Mohammed El Senussi envisions a stable Libya that positively impacts regional dynamics. 

“The country holds the potential to contribute significantly to regional cooperation and stability, including fostering stronger ties with neighboring nations,” he said, citing economic integration and security cooperation as key elements of this vision of regional solidarity and shared prosperity.

The crown prince emphasized the importance of diplomatic engagement, based on mutual respect, to shape regional dynamics and contribute to shared solutions for challenges such as migration, regional conflicts, and economic cooperation.

Morocco, Key Player in Libya’s Pursuit of Stability

In this respect, El Senussi expressed deep appreciation for Morocco’s significant contributions to the ongoing quest for a mutual solution in Libya, particularly through its mediating efforts in recent years. 

He highlighted Morocco’s noteworthy initiatives, emphasizing the country’s “important role as a mediator by facilitating multiple pathways for peacekeeping.”

Moroccan officials have been among the foreign representatives participating in UN-led Informal Consultations on Libya. As a primary supporter of the UN-led political process, the country has hosted a series of meetings to facilitate dialogue between rival Libyan factions.

The Libyan crown prince attributed Morocco’s effectiveness in this role to the shared “history” and “destiny” that binds the two countries as part of the Maghreb region, alongside Tunisia, Algeria, and Mauritania. 

Underscoring the unity that has characterized these countries’ past, he expressed confidence in the continued collaboration between Libya and Morocco and hoped for a positive impact of Rabat’s involvement in the ongoing Libyan National Dialogue.

“We hope that we can continue to count on fellow Moroccans for their support, including in the new Libyan National Dialogue that we are now pursuing,” he said, underlining his vision for a future marked by “excellent and suitable” conditions for relations between Morocco and Libya to flourish.


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