Family Ties: 4 International Political Dynasties

Democratic political dynasties are families in which successive generations have been elected to high political office by popular vote. The family members in question may be parents, children, spouses, or siblings. They function differently from monarchies and dictatorships, in which individuals are not elected to political office by popular vote. On Monday, October 19, Justin Trudeau was elected to the office of Prime Minister of Canada – an office which his father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, held from 1968 to 1984. Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party victory gives Canada its very first political dynasty. We were inspired by this week’s Canadian election to research the occurrence of political dynasties internationally – and we discovered they’re quite common in democratic countries all over the world (not to mention our own!).

1. The Philippines

The political structure of the Philippines is a democratic republic in which the president is head of state and head of government within a multi-party system. The current president of the Philippines is Benigno Aquino III, who represents the Liberal party. He was elected in 2010 as the 15th president of the Philippines, and is the son of Corazon Aquino, who served as 11th president of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992. Corazon Aquino was the first female president of the Philippines. The second female president of the Philippines was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who represented what is now the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrat party as the 14th president of the Philippines from 2001-2010. Her father was Diosdado Pangan Macapagal, who was the Philippines’ 9th president and served from 1957 to 1961.

2. India

The Nehru-Gandhi family is the Republic of India’s most prominent political dynasty. Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s first prime minister. Active in politics before and after Indian independence, he was instrumental in ending British rule of India as leader of the independence movement. He was a friend and student of Mahatma Gandhi, whose name is unrelated to the Nehru-Gandhi family dynasty at large. Jawaharlal Nehru served as prime minister from 1947-1964, and his daughter Indira Gandhi became India’s first female prime minister (and third overall) in 1966. She became India’s longest-serving prime minister, ruling for 18 years before her assassination in 1984. Immediately following her death, her son Rajiv Gandhi assumed the position of prime minister. He served in that post until 1989, and was assassinated in 1991. His wife, Sonia Gandhi, is currently the President of the Indian National Congress, and his son Rahul Gandhi is Vice President of the same. The current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, has no family ties to any political dynasty.

3. Japan

The current Prime Minister of Japan is Shinzō Abe. He served one term as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007 (when he resigned due to poor health) and was re-elected in 2012. Both his father and his grandfather were Japanese politicians, and his mother was the daughter of Nobusuke Kishi, who served as Prime Minister of Japan from 1957-1960. The Koizumi family is another significant Japanese dynasty. Junichiro Koizumi served as 87th Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006. His father, Junya Koizumi, was Director General of the Japan Defense Agency during the 1960s, and his son, Shinjirō Koizumi, is currently a Member of Parliament for Japan’s Kanagawa 11th district.

4. South Korea

Park Geun-hye is South Korea’s sitting 11th president, and the first female president in the nation’s history as well as the first to have been born a South Korean citizen. She is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, a military general who came to power in 1961 and became the third President of South Korea. He led South Korea for 18 years, industrializing the country and improving its economy, before he was assassinated by his own chief of security in 1979. The Park dynasty is the first in South Korea’s history as a democratic republic. Park Geun-hye represents the conservative Saenuri party, which is the successor to her father’s now-defunct Democratic Republican Party.

This list just scratches the surface of the history of international political dynasties. If you’re curious to learn about more famous political families from counties all over the world, visit Wikipedia’s list of prominent political families! Choose a country, and start reading – you may be surprised at who’s related to whom!

By Ephraim Rudolph, Marketing & Communications Intern