Wednesday April 17, 2024

Hereditary politics not unique to Pakistan

Relatively, few European leaders, however – just six of 54 – had ties to a previous president or prime minister

By Sabir Shah
February 26, 2024
PML-N Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif (left) and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. — Twitter/Facebook/@PMLN/@Karachi Is Heart Of Sindh
PML-N Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif (left) and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. — Twitter/Facebook/@PMLN/@Karachi Is Heart Of Sindh

LAHORE: Research shows that hereditary politics is not a phenomenon unique to Pakistan alone, rather it has been persisting in many countries in modern history since ages.

In its March 26, 2019 edition, the Conversation Media Group of Australia had stated: “On average, one in 10 world leaders comes from households with political ties. We examined the backgrounds of 1,029 political executives – that is, presidents and prime ministers – in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America from 2000 to 2017. We found that 119, or 12 percent, of all world leaders belonged to a political family.”

This Australian website, which was launched in March 2011, had added: “Our study defined ‘political family’ as having either a blood or marital tie to someone already involved in politics, whether as a judge, party official, bureaucrat, lawmaker, president or activist.

With North America excluded, Europe topped the list of leaders from political families. In this region of robust democracies, 13 percent of European presidents and prime ministers between 2000 and 2017 came from political families – the same proportion as in Latin America. Relatively, few European leaders, however – just six of 54 – had ties to a previous president or prime minister. Some 11 of the 88 Latin American leaders who held office from 2000 to 2017 were related to other presidents.” The Conversation Media Group, reporting a monthly online audience of 10.7 million users, and a combined reach of 40 million people when including republication in September 2019, had maintained: “Of the 29 African executives with family ties to politics, not fewer than 18 were related to former presidents or prime ministers. Asian presidents and prime ministers were in the middle of the pack regarding political families, according to our study.”

“23 of 204 Asian leaders, covered by our study, had family connections to politics. Over 75 percent were in non-democracies like Bhutan, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka. Of the 1,029 political executives included in this study, just 66 were women. They included Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the late Benazir Bhutto, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson and President Dilma of Brazil. Women who do attain the highest office are much more likely to belong to political families than their male counterparts. Moreover, 19 of the 66 female executives in our sample had familial connections to politics – 29 percent. One hundred of the 963 men we studied – just over 10 percent – had family ties,” the media group said. Here follows a list of some powerful international political dynasties: Three members of India’s Nehru-Gandhi family, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, have served as premiers, while many like Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have been Parliament members.

The Guardian wrote in 2007, “The Nehru brand has no peer in the world—a member of the family has been in charge of India for 40 of the 60 years since independence.” The Kennedy family of United States has deep and old roots, but gained more prominence with election of John Kennedy as President in 1960. During Kennedy’s administration, his brother Robert served as attorney general, his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver was director of Peace Corps and another brother Ted Kennedy was elected to US Senate. In the 2020s, three Kennedy family members served as US ambassadors. Victoria Kennedy, second wife of Ted Kennedy, was appointed as Ambassador to Austria by president Biden, and John Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, was sent as Ambassador to Australia. The Bush family is one of four families to have produced two presidents of the United States by the same surname; the others were the Adams, Roosevelt and Harrison families. Members of this family have held various national and state offices spanning across four generations. Messrs George Herbert Walker Bush and son George Walker Bush became American Presidents. President George Bush Senior’s father, Prescott Sheldon Bush, was an American Senator from 1952 to 1963, while his younger son, Jeb Bush, served as Florida’s Governor.

Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike family had three prime ministers and one president. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid of Bangladesh has now served for a combined total of over 19 years, making her the longest serving prime minister of her country and the world’s longest-serving female head of government as of February 2024. Hasina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the founding father and first president of Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujeeb had held continuous positions as president and premier from April 1971 until his assassination in 1975. The Aquino political dynasty of Philippines was founded by General Aguilar Aquino. This family has produced two presidents, Cory and Benigno, five senators and several legislators.

Argentine’s Kirchner family, which includes two of the last four presidents (Nestor and wife Cristina), has ruled with dominance for decades.

Máximo Carlos Kirchner, son of presidents Nestor and Cristina, is serving as a legislator. Canadian Premier, Justin Trudeau, and his father, Pierre Trudeau, have both headed governments. Trudeau’s mother, Margaret Sinclair, also comes from a line of prominent politicians. Lebanon’s Hariri family, Jordan’s largest real estate property investors, has produced two premiers—Messrs Rafic Hariri and Saad Hariri.

The Kim family of North Korea descends from the country’s founder and first leader, Kim Il Sung, who started calling the shots after the end of Japanese rule in 1948. He was followed by his son, Kim Jong Il, and then by grandson, Kim Jong Un. All three men have exercised absolute control over North Korea since the state’s establishment 75 years ago.

The Hatoyama family of Japan, called Japan’s Kennedys, produced two prime ministers—Ichiro Hatoyama and Yukio Hatoyama.

Singapore’s Lee family included country’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, and his son, Lee Hsien Loong, the third and current premier.