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Debate: Asian democracies, disallow succession of close relatives to top posts

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Should Asian democracies disallow succession of close relatives to top posts?


Background and Context of Debate:

The Nehru Family of India

Anwar Ibrahim & daughter, Nurul Izzah of Malaysia

Does possible cronism & nepotism or perceived cronism & nepotism supersede right of individual to run for post?


  • As most of them would already have established themselves in political scene through the influential family member succession can be due to cronism as opposed to capability-based appointment. For example, in Malaysian politics, many link the quick elevation to power of Khairy Jamaluddin, at only 32 now is the Deputy Chief of UMNO Youth and a Member of Parliament, is linked with his father-in-law being the Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi
  • The politically established family member could use the successor are a means to still exert influence and power over the government, thus any changes in the political scene is only superficial and not substantiated in new policies and ideas.


  • It is unfair for an otherwise talented and capable individual to be deprived of a post just because he is related to blood ties. Perception of bias does not provide a direct harm on anyone and does not justify removing a person of his political participation. Public perception can easily change positively once a relative moves into a post and does a good job.
  • Public perception can also work in their favor. Individuals who are offspring of talented leaders often become supported by the public and are requested to continue their father's leadership. In Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was widely supported by the people because of the public loved her father, Diosdado Macapagal, the 9th Philippine president, known as "The Incorruptible". In Malaysia, currently two young political figures are quickly gaining popularity because of their fathers' legacy. Nurul Izzah Anwar of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is loved by supporters of former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim; while Mukhriz Mahathir gains support from supporters of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Does it turn democracy into a form of monarchy?


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Even if it did, it should not matter. What should matter when judging the effectiveness of a government is its ability to improve the living standards of its people. Even with a highly restricted democracy, Lee Kuan Yew and his circle have turned Singapore into a rich and prosperous country. The Kims in North Korea, on the other hand, have run their country into the ground. Succession is not the issue; the capacity of the person(s) succeeding is the issue.

Does it undermine the credibility of the candidate & jeopardize his ability to serve the people?


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Hardly. Those who grew up around political families may be better able to serve the people and may have more credibility than those without such experience. Consider the Benazir Bhutto's courage in navigating Pakistani politics or the unique credibility and savvy that Ang Sang Suu Kyi's father's legacy bequeathed to her. Again, disallowing succession would only make sense if all such successions were a bad idea. The bottom line is that many are good for Asian countries, meaning a blanket ban without considering context would stunt freedoms and prosperity in many Asian countries.


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