The republic is not the shiny new form of government that the Age of Enlightenment created to overthrow tyrannical monarchs. Most republics were founded not through democratic ways but with the abolition of monarchy through violent coups, such as in the short-lived Republic of Oliver Cromwell (1649-1660), the short-lived First French Republic (1792-1804), Mexico (1862), Brazil (1889) and, in modern times, Russia (1917) and some of its future soviet satellites: Serbia (1945), Bulgaria (1945) and Romania (1947).
We’ll study two cases, one from Europe, Romania, and one from Africa, Ethiopia:
Romania: On 30 December 1947, King Michael of Romania was forced to abdicate through a coup by a pro-Soviet government led by Petru Groza, supported by the Red Army occupation that began since 31 August 1944, when it entered Bucharest. The Royal Palace was surrounded and the King was threatened with the killing of 1000 pro-monarchist students. The Romanian Popular Republic was proclaimed.
King Michael I (born 1921) was first crowned at 6 years, with his grandfather’s death, King Ferdinand, on 20 July 1927, rising to the throne a second time – after his father’s reign in 1930-1940 – on 6 September 1940. On 23 August 1944 he arrested pro-Hitler prime-minister Ion Antonescu and decided Romania left the anti-Allies war*. Because of this he had very much popular support.
The communist republic fell in Romania on 1989. The Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceauşescu, was condemned to death and executed in 1989. The government was taken by the National Salvation Front Council (Consiliul Frontului Salvării Naţionale), led by politicians with communist background such as president Ion Iliescu and prime-minister Petre Roman, that prevented King Michael of Romania from returning in 1990-1997, with the exception of the Easter visit in 25-27 April 1992. King Michael returned in 1997 when the traditional parties took power. The Dynasty symbolically returned in Romania when in 1997, after 50 years, King Michael proclaimed his oldest daughter, Margareta, as heir. In 2007, King Michael issued the Fundamental Laws of the Royal Family, through which it grants his daugher the title of „Protector of the Romanian Crown”. The monarchy is more and more considered as a political solution for Romania, as it was for Spain in 1975.
Ethiopia: On 12 September 1974, Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was forced to abdicate through a Derg-supported coup led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, supported, from outside, by the Soviet Union. His son, Amha Selassie, proclaimed Emperor, denounced his fathers’ abdication and on 12 March 1975 the Ethiopian Democratic Popular Republic was proclaimed.
Haile Selassie I (born 1892), regent of Ethiopia (1916-1930) and Emperor of Ethiopia (1930-1974) was son of a local governor, cousin of Emperor Menelik II (1889-1913). Since the new Emperor Iyasu V (1913-1916) abandoned Christ and became a Muslim, he was removed in favor of his aunt, Empress Zewditu (the first female head of state in Africa). In 1916, Haile Selassie I became Prince Heir and, after the Empress’ death, became Emperor. His country was invaded by Italy in 1936, the Ethiopian Imperial Crown being taken by the King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele III di Savoia. Haile Selassie I was restored to the thrown with British support on 5 May 1941. His come-back speech pleaded for harmony:”when we say let us rejoice with our hearts, let not our rejoicing be in any other way but in the spirit of Christ. Do not return evil for evil.”
The communist republic fell in Ethiopia in 1991. Dictator Haile Mariam fled to fellow Dictator Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, where, at the age of 79, he still lives today (in 2016). Emperor Amha Selassie, son of Haile Selassie I, died in exile in 1997. Prince Heir Zera Yacob Selassie (born 17 August 1953) is 63. Monarchy appears as a political solution for Ethiopia, as it was for Cambodia in 1993.
Why, after communism fell, the authorities of the republic feared the kings that the former dictatorship overthew?
” …. the party that replaced Mengistu was the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, a democratic socialist party. In other words, communism for slow learners. Unfortunately, this is not unique to Ethiopia as we have seen the same all over the world. When communist regimes fall, the party renames itself the social democrats or democratic socialists and continues on just as they did before. They took power and held on to it, giving the world some show-elections just to make everyone happy while continuing on the tradition of corruption, wars and poverty that characterized the preceding regime. It is still a country of starvation and repression with a government that continues to denigrate the monarchy that went before it.”
As a Romanian citizen, The same applies to Romania. We can rewrite this text as it follows:
” …. the party that replaced Ceauşescu was the National Salvation Front Council, a democratic socialist party. In other words, communism for slow learners. Unfortunately, this is not unique to Romania as we have seen the same all over the world. When communist regimes fall, the party renames itself the social democrats or democratic socialists and continues on just as they did before. They took power and held on to it, giving the world some show-elections just to make everyone happy while continuing on the tradition of corruption and poverty that characterized the preceding regime. It is still a country of poverty and chaotic democracy with a government that continued, until 1997, to denigrate the monarchy that went before it.”
Let’s take another case from Europe:
King Constantine II of Greece, overthrew by a military dictatorship in 1973, could not visit his country until… 2013!? In 1991, even grand duke Vladimir (1917-1992), nephew of Emperor Nicholas II, was able to visit the… Soviet Union! Why? Because the Russian Imperial Family, killed in 1917 by the Bolsheviks, was no longer a danger.
Constantine II was the only Greek champion at the Olympiads that earned a Golden medal in 1920-1980: in 1960, at Rome, for yachting. He was allowed to return, since 1973, in February 1981, for his mother’s funerals, Queen Frederica (1917-1981), only for a few hours – the same situation with King Michael in 1992! And the Greek military dictatorship fell in 1974, just as communism had fallen in Romania in 1989!
In 1993 he wasn’t allowed to return to Greece. The same happened to King Michael on 7 October 1994, when he was stopped at the airport. In democracies! In 1994, the Greek Royal Residence, Tatoi Palace, was confiscated… after 20 years of democracy.
King Constantine II was allowed to visit Greece with the occasion of the 2004 Olympics, as a member of the International Olympics Committee. Just as King Michael supported Romania’s candidature for NATO (2004) and EU (2007), King Constantine II supported Greece’s candidature to organize the Summer Olympics in 2004.
Today, Greece is in the worst situation possible.
See also Why the Middle East needs more kings by J.J. Waldron, that reminds the unstable situation in the Middle East was also provoked by the fell of oriental monarchies:
- On 26 July 1952 King Farouk I of Egypt (1936-1952) was overthrew. The Republic of Egypt was led by less democratic figures such as Nasser (1956-1970), Anwar Sadat (1971-1981), Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011) and Mohamed Morsi (2012-2013). The situation is still unstable there.
- On 25 July 1957 King Muhammad VIII al-Amin, first monarch of Independent Tunisia (1956), the Tunisian Constituent Assembly deposed him.
- On 14 July 1958 the Royal Family of Iraq was assassinated (King Faisal II, born in 1935, had only 23 years!), leading to the ascension of dictator Saddam Hussein (1979-2003) and then, in recent times, of the Daesh, the so-called Islamic State.
- On 1 September 1969 King Idris of Libia was overthrew by a military coup led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
- On 17 July 1973, King Mohammed Zahir Shah of Afghanistan (1933-1973) was overthrew, after him being proclaimed a communist (1978-1987) then Islamic (1982-2002) state.
- On 11 February 1979, Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1941-1979), protector of a secular state, was overthrew, being replaced by today’s Islamic republic led by the Ayatollah.
„In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion, opinion polls commissioned by the Pentagon showed no appetite among Iraqis for a republic. So why was one imposed on them? After the fall of Gaddafi in Libya, why was a blind eye turned to the royalist flags, a deaf ear to the royalist anthem? And in Afghanistan, why was pressure put on the old king, Zahir Shah, to rule himself out when just his quiet return to the country produced a level of support that looked likely to have him elected head of state? … So if Europeans and Australians can vote for kings and queens, how can we justify withholding that right from others who live where kingship has the greatest potential to do good? We can’t afford to think of monarchies as just a legacy for the lucky few, tolerated because they’re somehow terribly good at maintaining peaceful prosperity. The time has come for us to think about creating new sovereigns to act as tools for troubled parts of the world — certainly they could do no worse than any other form of government that’s been tried across the Arab world since the 1950s.”
Acoording to Transparency International’s Top 16 least corrupt countries, 10 are monarchies (Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands/Holland, Luxembourg, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Belgia and Japan) while 5 are republics (Finland, Switzerland, Singapore, Germany, Iceland).
„Constitutional monarchy is a cornerstone of many stable democracies – so why are we so keen to avoid it in places like Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan? … Well, it’s interesting that there are a dozen monarchies (including the UK and Barbados) judged to have less political and administrative corruption than America. In fact, there are only three republics in Transparency International’s top ten — and three kingdoms in the bottom 100. The great British Arabist Bernard Lewis, together with former head of the CIA James Woolsey, suggested creating a monarchy in Iraq in 2003. Noah Feldman, however, who was advising the US administration, dismissed the idea: ‘The United States is committed to democracy, and monarchy is not a good sign.’ Looking at the corruption league, however, one might be forgiven for thinking that monarchy is one very good sign of a properly functioning democracy.”
[*] Similar acts, when the king stopped or tried to stop the war, were made by King Peter II of Yugoslavia on 27 March 1941 (failed; the country was occupied by the Nazi), King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy on 25 July 1943, when he arrested pro-Hitler prime minister Benito Mussolini, and Emperor Hirohito of Japan, who announced Japan’s surrender on 14-15 August 1945 (and the minister of war tried to capture him! the Kyūjō incident). Romania, Yugoslavia (Serbia), Italy and Japan were all former allies of France, Britain and America in the First World War (1916-1918).