Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Politics: keeping things in the family

Source: The News
Date: February 26, 2008
By Jean-Michel C, adiot

PARIS: Family dynasties, most recently highlighted by the Castro clan in Cuba after Raul was selected to replace his ailing brother Fidel, are alive and kicking across a broad spectrum of world politics.

Be it democratically as in the United States or Argentina, or in a more or less authoritarian way as in Syria or the Democratic Republic of Congo, sons often replace fathers, spouses swap places and siblings take over each other’s posts.

In the United States, the Republican George W Bush was elected in 2000 and then again in 2004, eight years after his father left the White House where he served from 1988 to 1992. The current president’s brother Jeb, meanwhile, has served as governor of the state of Florida.

In Argentina, Cristina Kirchner won last year’s presidential election, replacing her husband Nestor. On a less democratic note, North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly in September 1998 confirmed Kim Jong-il as successor to his father Kim il-Sung, the communist state’s founding father.

In Syria Bashar al-Assad, 34, was elected by plebiscite in July 2000 on the death of his father Hafez al-Assad who had led the country for 30 years. The current president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila, became president in 2001, aged just 29 after the assassination of his father Laurent Desire Kabila.

Also in Africa, 39-year-old Faure Gnassingbe was proclaimed head of state of Togo in 2005, the day after the death of his long-ruling father Gnassingbe Eyadema. A similar transition took place in the Caucasus state of Azerbaijan, when in October 2003, Ilham Aliyev, 41, took over the reins of power occupied for a long time by his father Heydar, who died shortly afterwards.

Family dynasties are also a prominent fixture on the Indian subcontinent, often amid tragedy. Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, post-independence India’s first prime minister, was twice prime minister herself before being assassinated in 1984.

Her son Rajiv succeeded her, but was also assassinated in 1991. Rajiv’s widow, the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, is currently head of the ruling Congress party. In Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, twice prime minister and the first woman to lead a Muslim country, was assassinated on 27th December 2007. Her father Ali Bhutto, had been executed in 1979 by a military regime.

In Bangladesh, Hasina Wajed and Khaleda Zia, respectively daughter of the country’s founding father Mujibur Rahman, assassinated in 1975 and widow of the former prime minister Ziaur Rahman, killed in 1981, have both of them headed governments. Both are today in prison.

In Sri Lanka, Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the first woman in the modern era to head a government, from 1960 to 1965, succeeding her husband Salomon, who was assassinated in 1959. Their daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga, whose husband Vijaya had been assassinated in 1988, led the government for several months starting in 1994, then held the post of president for 12 years.

A dynasty can also involve siblings. In Poland Lech Kaczynski, the president, who is still in office, and his identical twin brother Jaroslaw, formerly prime minister, ran their country side by side for two years from the end of 2005 to end of 2007.

In Lebanon in 1982, Amin Gemayel was elected president after the assassination of his brother Bashir. They were the sons of a prominent Lebanese politician. Other potential dynasties were nipped in the bud.

In the United States Robert Kennedy, had launched a bid for the presidency when he was gunned down 1968, five years after his elder brother, president John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Hillary Clinton, the wife of former US president Bill Clinton, is currently hoping to win the presidency in her turn, although her campaign has run into trouble, in part because of the shadow cast by her spouse.

In a completely different context, Uday Hussein had been promised that he would lead Iraq in the footsteps of his father, Saddam. After the latter was overthrown by a US-led invasion, Uday was killed in July 2003, and his captured father was executed at the end of 2006.

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