No denying the family

Dynastic politics in democracies is considered antithetical to the idea of electoral competition and representation. A Google or Wikipedia search, however, shows that dynastic politics is prevalent in many contemporary democracies. While the political landscape of India seems to be one of "mini kingdoms" of local satraps, the situation is apparently not very different in Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, or the United States. Rahul Gandhi's appointment as the in-charge of the Congress party's election coordination committee for the next general elections and his recent elevation to party vice president at the Congress's chintan shivir in Jaipur, Pakistan's ruling Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's political debut at a rally on December 27 last year, Euan Blair's announcement that he would join politics in Great Britain, and Mitt Romney's unsuccessful campaign to become the 45th president of the US, are all seen as part of the same phenomenon.

The design and scale of political capture by powerful families in South and Southeast Asian democracies is, however, altogether different. Here parties are dynastic. In Japan, on the other hand, individual Diet members are often dynastic but the main political party the Liberal Democratic Party is not controlled by the same family through generations. This is not the case in places like India and the Philippines, where the top leadership of most political parties comes from and stays within one family. This is the main difference between dynastic politics in South and Southeast Asian countries and places like Britain, Japan or the US. After the demise of Benazir Bhutto in 2007, Bilawal Bhutto was the natural successor to the post of party chairman. In India, some cabinet ministers in the current UPA government, who have been in politics since before Rahul Gandhi was born, take pride in appealing to the Gandhi scion to take on the mantle of party leader. Political parties in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand exhibit similar characteristics. On the other hand, Tony Blair's prime ministership of Great Britain for 10 years did not lead to the current Labour leadership embracing Euan Blair with both hands. Similarly, George Romney's legacy as the 43rd governor of Michigan, and a candidate for the Republican Party nomination in the 1968 presidential election, could not even ensure Mitt Romney's nomination as the presidential candidate of the Republican party.

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