Saturday, July 09, 2011

Political Dynasties, Female Political Leaders and the Philippine Setting

In the world of politics, gender inequality has been narrowing as female politicians have been increasing around the world (but still remains low overall).

But in many areas, the growth of female politicians seems more representative of a symptom of a chronic disease known as political dynasties.


From the Economist, (emphasis added)

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA, whose party won Thailand’s general election and who is the country’s presumptive prime minister, is far from the only female relative of a former leader to have taken over the family political mantle (Yingluck is the youngest sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister ousted by the army in 2006). As our table shows, there are at least 20 such figures now active in politics, including three presidents or prime ministers and six leaders of the opposition or presidential candidates. (The region most receptive to female dynastic leaders seems to be South Asia. Two of the last three presidents of the Philippines have also been related to former presidents.) Historical figures are not available for comparison, but it is hard to think of any period when so many such women hold high political office. A remarkable number are daughters or other relatives of former strongmen: they are influential in Ghana, France, Peru, South Korea, Guatemala, Kazakhstan and Italy. Perhaps women are thought best able to soften an authoritarian family brand, and make it more acceptable in a democracy.

Such malady especially applies to the Philippines.

Here is a roster of 12 popular mother and son political “tandems” (yahoo)

Cory & Noynoy, Gloria & Mikey, Imelda & Bongbong, Loi & Jinggoy, Guia & Jv, Elenita & Junjun, Lani & Jolo, Glenda & Ruben, Jr, Nikki & Julian, Letty & Ranjit

There about 250 political dynasties in the Philippines (New York Times 2007) and this number has been growing. The 14th Philippine congress has an estimated more than 75% of lawmakers from old political families (

As I earlier pointed out,

And how do you sustain political dynasties? By systematic redistribution. The above board taxes generated from the local economy are used to pay off voters indirectly by virtue of massive welfare programs [e.g. free movies, free health care, senior citizens discount and etc...] or directly (vote buying) during elections. For instance, local authorities discreetly allow people to squat on empty government and private lands and are given protection from doing so in exchange for votes.

Female leaders are hardly about instituting ‘puritanical/moral’ reforms or about representation of particular issues or political sectors in the conventional wisdom. Instead, most of these women leaders essentially ‘represent’ extensions of family interests in their respective political domain.

I understand that there is a pending anti-dynasty bill (HB 3413) being deliberated in the Philippine Congress (

An anti-dynasty bill that limits tenure WILL NOT remedy a disease brought about by the addiction to power over the political distribution of resources, as there will always be legal loopholes to circumvent. In fact, some of the women leaders (which include the other relatives) have been embodiments of systematic legal bypass over term limits on legislative branch and the local government(

The only solution to a problem of political inequality (centralization) would through market distribution (decentralization). In short, economic freedom serves as the only genuine antidote to political dynasties.

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