Dynastic Politics – What & Where

Dynastic Politics – What & Where

Recently I read a fascinating book called “Love & Death in Kathmandu”, which detailed the story of Nepal’s royal family, including their relationship to the Prime Ministers, who at one point almost held the royals completely under their thumb. One of the most interesting parts to me was that the Prime Ministership was passed down from father to son (or other blood-relative), rather than being democratically elected.

Additionally, I’ve also been reading news from Pakistan about the potential for the brother of the former PM to obtain the top job.
SO all of this leads me to explore today’s topic: Dynastic Politics. 
Political Dynasties refer to when a succession of government rulers are all from the same family line.
Most western countries are not at all familiar with this pattern. Their leaders are elected based on competition and merits, and it is very rare that a family member will be the next person elected into government to follow them. 
Mohan Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana
Last Rana family PM of Nepal
Image Source: Wikipedia

So where in the world are some of the prominent examples of political dynasties?

  • Nepal (PMs – Rana family. Ended 1961.)
  • Pakistan (PMs)
  • Phillipines – tends to occur mostly in provinces or cities, rather than the national level.
  • India (PMs – Nehru-Ghandi)
  • Sri Lanka (Presidents)
  • Indonesia (Presidents – ended with election of Joko Widodo)
  • Japan (PMs)
  • North Korea – probably one of the most extreme cases!
  • Togo (Presidents)
  • Gabon (Presidents)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (Presidents)
In the above examples, some successors were elected (e.g. Gabon) – others simply received the title (e.g. Nepal)
What similar cultural traits and patterns do we see with the above countries? 
Firstly, they are all communal cultures, compared to individualistic ones. In other words, they are countries where the success of the whole family is valued higher than the achievements of one individual. They are driven by reputation, rather than by following individual passions for careers.
Secondly, quite a few of the above countries do not have very mature, transparent election processes (or in the case of North Korea, non-existent).
Thirdly, a lot of these countries lean towards the hierarchical spectrum of Hierarchy versus Equality; in other words, people are very respectful of status and will often not question those considered “above” them.
These dynasties seem to be replicas of royal systems of inheritance. In the modern age of technology, with much larger volumes of opinion and information sharing, it will be interesting to see how much longer this pattern of government will last in these countries.


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