Are the World’s Democracies Turning into Dynastic Systems?

There is a curious trend developing in leading democratic systems: a return to dynastic preferences in government.  With Hillary Clinton still leading in the U.S. polls, other nations have embraced dynastic lines of successions under a democratic process like Argentina and now the leading opposition party in Pakistan.

The news that the People’s Party — Pakistan’s largest party — will continue its reliance on a single family line of succession, even though Benazir Bhutto’s son is only 19 years old, has no political experience, and has no evidence of any insight or ideas on the future of the nation. He will lead with his father Asif Ali Zardari who, as a former Cabinet minister spent eight years in prison on corruption charges and was known as “Mr. 10 Percent” for his alleged kickback schemes. Of course, Pakistan is hardly a democratic system given the military rule. However, the embrace of such a family line is bizarre for a major nation committed to democratic principles.

In India, the Nehru-Gandhi family is a political family in India has been dominant in the Indian National Congress and three members (Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi) have been Prime Minister of India. Notably, like their counterparts in Pakistan, two of whom (Indira and Rajiv Gandhi) were assassinated.

Argentina has long had a fascination with family lines in ruling as shown by the Peron dynasty. President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina will now assume the role of first spouse in order to let his wife, Cristina, serve as president.

Of course, we have had a father/son combination in presidents with the former and current George Bushs — a dynastic line that proved a disaster on the latter selection. George P. Bush, a nephew of President Bush, is supposedly now be groomed for a later run.Then there is Hillary. Like Kircher, she can point to her service in her nation’s Senate as independent credentials. However, these are but a few of such family lines in the U.S. politics that also include the Bayh family, Dodd family, Romney family Kennedy family and many others.

There is a type of name branding that has taken hold with voters as evidenced by the extensive campaigning by Bill Clinton for his wife.Of course, such succession is a well-known element in non-democratic countries like North Korea’s “Dear One” Kim Jong-il succeeding the “Great One” his father Kim Il-sung. Yet, it is a curious evolution for democratic systems: to democratically achieve dynastic elements in government. This is not to take away from the individual qualifications of people like Hillary Clinton, but the selection of a teenager in Pakistan shows how democratic systems can reflect a type of latent preference for family rule. 

For the most recent article on Pakistan, click here

3 thoughts on “Are the World’s Democracies Turning into Dynastic Systems?”

  1. It is not a particularly new phenomena. I believe there have been political families since the Revolution: Adams, Harrison, Roosevelt, etc. are names that leap to mind, but there are probably many others. Many of us are caught up in family vocational traditions spanning several generations: third generation lawyers, doctors, teachers, and so forth. Why not political families?

  2. Jay:

    England is indeed an example of a country that has largely avoided this trend in the chief of state. Quite ironic given the country as the symbol of dynastic rule. I suppose if you have a formal dynastic royalty, you hardly need familial usurpers for prime minister. Another possibility is that the English are painfully aware that talent generally does not pass by blood and history often reveals the opposite: successors tend to be knock-offs of the original brand.

  3. Thanks Jonathan! Only last night I was discussing the same view point as you and found your blog through my google search. I think the people need to be made aware of this dangerous trend of choosing the leaders because just they have a “name brand”. This will certainly dilute the ideology of the democracy. The only country that I know with no dynastic rule, at least since Winston Churchill is Engand. In that way it may be the only authentic democracy in the world!

Comments are closed.