Hugo Grotius
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Magyar külpolitika
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HUGO GROTIUS (Huig de Groot), a modern természetjogi felfogás és a modern politikai irodalom egyik megteremtője, aki a természet-jogon alapuló nemzetközi jog alapjait fektette le. »»



Why Gaddafi May Still Stay in Power?

Erzsébet N. Rózsa

Why Gaddafi May Still Stay in Power?


The war in Libya has the potential to change the direction of the wave of democratisation, to upset the precarious balances of the uprisings, and to cause a split, yet again, among the ranks of the EU member states in spite of the carefully crafted UN SC resolution 1973. Whatever the outcome might be, nothing much will change in Libya in the short to medium term – given the social, economic and political context of the country – even if Colonel Gaddafi himself and his family may eventually disappear. The present analysis aims at examining the social background underlying and defining the outcome of any of the three possible scenarios (Gaddafi’s retake of the whole country, the rebels’ eventual victory, and a protracted split of the country based on a balance between the two sides and a deal struck between the international community and Gaddafi). We claim that irrespective of the scenario Gaddafi and/or his clientele will remain in power for years to come.

Libyan society is considered conservative even by Arab terms. Its social structure reflects much more the classical desert civilisation than the modernizing urban societies of Tunisia and Egypt. The tribal structure, not much visible decades ago, has resurfaced – was re-animated by Gaddafi to serve his own purposes to counter-balance the eventual strengthening of Islam – and has come to fine-tune the basic underlying relationship within the society, which can be characterised by the ruler–subject paradigm. By this simplification of the old God–ruler–subject relationship he aims to present himself as the interpreter of God’s will, and this is the cause of the regime’s uneasy and difficult relationship with the Libyan religious circles. The reason obviously should be looked for in the past and raison d’etre of the regime, which came into power in 1969 by toppling the monarchy headed by King Idris, grandson and spiritual heir to the founder of the Sanousi order, which had its legitimacy rooted on the one hand in its religious affiliation, on the other hand in its fighting European colonial powers. His revolutionary command substituted for the former patrimonial structure by a neo-patrimonial one, the ideology of which is neither socialist, nor capitalist, but claims to create a third world theory, in which Islam (i.e., the regime’s interpretation of Islam) plays a constitutive role. As a result, Libya has acquired a dual structure, where tribalism and the Western institutions of the state coexist and overlap.

Libyan society, therefore, can be characterised as a patrimonial structure with tribal affiliations and connections, in which decision-making is performed within the “real” sphere of politics by the clients whose position and power are first and foremost defined by their closeness to the centre of “real” power, the Leader of the Revolution. What is happening in the “virtual” sphere of the state is of secondary importance only, as the role of the “virtual” sphere is to realise the internationally “accepted” frameworks of practice – whether imposed from the outside by other players (e.g., the colonialists in the past) or drawn up to accommodate to the trends of international development in the less recent past. Therefore, the Leader and the clients create (have created) the structures (“parliament”, “ministries”, “courts”), which in fact have no other role than serve decision-making in the “real” sphere. When Gaddafi elaborated and introduced his third-way theory, the Great Jamahiriyya and the indirect participation of the people in decision-making, in fact he was using the “socialist” terminology – developed further – within the “virtual” sphere. This is why he can rule the country without having any official position (within the “virtual” sphere) and this is why he cannot resign, as state functions and offices belong to the “virtual” sphere, but real power is vested and realised in the “real” sphere, where resignation has no meaning at all.

The relationship between the Leader and the subjects in the “real” sphere is based on a kind of a religious–moral contract, which is formally concluded by the bay’a, the oath of allegiance, offered to the ruler (Leader) upon officially coming into office. It can be manifested in a – nowadays widely televised – ceremony, as was the case of the Saudi King Abdallah, when the leading members of his family performed their offering the bay’a. Or, it may be presented in written form like the document on show in Libya, signed by all tribal leaders. (It goes without saying that bay’a can be forced, too.) Its underlying principle – not without any religious connotations – is that the ruler provides for the well-being and dignity of his subjects, and generally for the realisation of justice (‘adala). In return, the subjects accept his guidance and rule. Should the ruler become incapable of delivering his part of the social contract – like, for instance, Saddam Hussein did –, the subjects are not bound to him anymore. It is exactly this institution of the social contract which forced Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Muhammad Hosni Mubarak in Egypt to go (by starting to negotiate with the subjects they acknowledged that justice was infringed) and which can make it possible for Gaddafi to stay when he claims that he is fighting for the maintenance of this justice (against al-Qaida, rebels, etc).

Gaddafi’s behaviour is absolutely rational and logical in this context of the “real” sphere of power: the ruler, who has the power, punishes the disobedient subjects, who are traitors (khuwwan). And to this end he is entitled to and has the right to use all the tools at his disposal. The punishment should be brutal and hard in order to avoid further disobedience and to prove that the ruler is still – and has never ceased to be – possessing his abilities and capabilities. In this sense, the fact that the international community has so carefully tried to avoid stripping him of his power and came to “defend the civilian population” only, is a mistake, which will almost surely keep Gaddafi in office for the foreseeable future. Paradoxically, this will reinforce his position as a Leader (the ruler in the “real” sphere) who could successfully stand against the great powers’ will (the “colonialist Crusader enemy”) and the contriving and unreliable regional powers (the Arab League), who are challenging him in the “virtual” sphere. In the absence of a clear victory over him, however, the Arab states may – and most probably will – reconsider their positions vis-ŕ-vis Gaddafi. The “real” sphere context will gain the upper hand again, which will be clearly reflected in the Arab public opinion, of which he may become the next hero, in spite of the fact that so far there has not been much love lost by the average Arab person on Gaddafi’s fate and well-being.

11 April 2011

(Első közlés: Az MKI honlapja



Studies on Political Islam and Islamic Political Thought

Európa és a világ

Az európai történelem eszméje

Az iszlám Európában

Európa és Ázsia. Modernizáció és globalizáció

Iszlám és modernizáció a Közel-Keleten


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