The political reforms being brought about by Dr. Abiy Ahmed, the new Prime Minister of Ethiopia, including the presence of relative political openness and freedom, are encouraging. Indeed, while many of the organized political groups are advocating for differing versions of political structures (ex: unitary, federal, or a mix of the two), they all seem to have a common interest in a democratic political system. However, few seem to be calling for the restoration of the monarchy, an institution that has long been part of the country’s tradition and history. From its legendary origin of Queen Makeda and King Solomon to its likely root of the Damot (or Damat) kingdom of ancient Ethiopia and to its successor states centered in Tigray and Shoa, the history of the Solomonic dynasty had long been associated with the history of Ethiopia. This age-old monarchy, if restored, may help to maintain and foster national unity.
In his study of democracy, Seymour Martin Lipset (1959) observed that of the 12 democratic countries of the time, ten had monarchies as heads of states. These democracies were located mostly in Western Europe and included Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Lipset argued that the democratic regimes in Western Europe acquired legitimacy because they preserved the traditional monarchies as head of states, which had the support of the conservative groups including the aristocracy, landlords, and the clergy. Consequently, constitutional monarchies, according to Lipset, have helped to legitimize the democratic system by fostering unity among diverse groups, the groups of the past (conservatives) and of the present (progressives).
In the case of Ethiopia, the revolution ended Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign due to its failure to make political and socioeconomic reforms. The aristocracy is also gone, either it was killed during the revolution, died out of age, or could not maintain its status. The landlord class has also been wiped out by the revolution. The only conservative institution remaining from the old order is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Prior revolutions have also ended monarchies in France (1789), Russia (1917), and China (1911) for similar reasons. Yet the end of the Solomonic dynasty may not be a foregone conclusion. As Arnold Toynbee has argued, Ethiopia has been more of a peculiar country. For instance, it was the only country that had avoided European colonialism in Africa (save Liberia). It was also the only country in the northeast Africa that ...continued...
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