The aance of dynastic ‘democracy’ around the world

Dear Tingasiga,
It is a busy election season around the world. Some are democratic. A few are trying hard to hold free and fair contests. The rest are predictably undemocratic, with outcomes unaffected by the people’s will.
Nigeria has just recycled a former dictator to replace an incompetent president. However, they are not the only Africans that are recycling rulers.
A number of countries are in outright democratic dynastic rule. A few examples:
Kenya chose Uhuru Kenyatta to sit in Jomo Kenyatta’s chair. (He is turning out to be a good leader, I think.)
In Zimbabwe, Grace Mugabe is preparing to succeed her 91-year-old husband when he dies in office. In Angola, Isabel dos Santos, reported to have a net worth of $ 3 billion, may be prevailed upon to succeed her father who has ruled the country since 1979.
In the Congo Free State (DRC), Joseph Kabila, who succeeded his father upon the latter’s assassination in 2001, tried to succeed himself through amending the constitution. The brave Congolese stopped him.
In Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba succeeded his father, President Omar Bongo Ondimba, who died in Spain in 2009.
In Togo, President Faure Gnassingbe, who succeeded his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, in 2005, is seeking a third term on April 25. His main challenger is the secretary general of a party led by 78-year-old Gilchrist Olympio, son of Sylvanus Olympio, the first elected president of Togo, assassinated in 1963 by Gnassingbe Eyadema. The latter seized full control of Togo in a 1967 military coup detat.

Should he win, Faure will preside over the 2017 celebrations of 50 years of the Gnassingbe Dynasty.
In Uganda, suspicion remains that Yoweri Museveni is manoeuvering to have his son, Brigadier Muhoozi Keinerugaba, succeed him in 2021. Mrs Janet Kataaha Museveni, the President’s wife, who has repeatedly declared that she and her husband were anointed by God, has also been mentioned as a possible successor to the Ugandan throne.
Of course, Africa does not have a monopoly on this dynastic democracy. The South Americans have been at it for some time. Isabel Peron of Argentina succeeded President Juan Peron, her husband, upon his death in office in 1974.
More recently, Christina Fernandez Kirchner succeeded Nestor Kirchner, her husband, as president of Argentina in 2007. Although he had served only one term, Mr Kirchner stepped aside and offered the candidacy to his wife.

In Peru, Keiko Fujimori, the leader of the largest opposition party, is leading in the pack of potential candidates in next year’s presidential elections. She is the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, the former president who is serving a 25-year jail term because of human rights abuses, including killing his opponents.
In Asia, there have been dynastic presidencies and premierships in places like Pakistan, the other “stans”, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Singapore, North Korea, South Korea and Japan.

Here in Canada, we may get the first dynastic occupant of the prime minister’s chair if Justin Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, wins the federal election in October.
To the south, a country where more 150 million people qualify to serve as president of the USA, all eyes are on another potential Bush versus Clinton fight in next year’s presidential elections.
Hillary Clinton, the wife of a former president, could face Republican Jeb Bush, a son and brother of former presidents.
They are not the first families to enjoy this dynastic grip on US presidential politics. John Quincy Adams, America’s sixth president, was the son of John Adams, the second president.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a cousin of President Theodore Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of FDR, was Theodore’s niece.
President Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of President William Henry Harrison.
Three Kennedy brothers – John, Robert and Edward – sought the US presidency. John won but he was assassinated after 34 months in office. I understand that Joseph P. Kennedy III may seek the presidency in 2020 or 2024.

Of course, the governorships, senate and congressional positions are often a family affair. We have seen this in Uganda too, with people promptly elected to Parliament to replace a dead parent or sibling.
There are a number of reasons why dynastic candidacies win elections even in serious democracies like the USA. Name recognition gives them a strong head start. Celebrity adoration, a “natural inclination to kingly government”, is a human weakness that propels voters to assume genetic abilities among relatives of previous leaders. Emotions carry the day following the death of an incumbent.
Power in the family creates large networks that offer cash, organisational support and political backing.
There is nothing illegal or immoral about any of this. Presidential relatives have as much right to seek power as anybody else. Some may be excellent leaders in their own right. The logical thing is to judge them on merit.

However, I tend to be instinctively put off by any hint of dynastic play in politics. Stripped of their family names, many would probably not register on their country’s political radar. That is why I am having trouble getting excited about the coming contests here in Canada and the USA.
Dr Mulera is based in Toronto, Canada.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor


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