Monday, 10 February 2014

Republicanism

The oldest republic in the world is San Marino, founded in 301AD. The first modern one is the United States of America founded in 1776. Since then more and more countries have followed suit, so that by 2000 three-quarters were republics. The distinction between monarchy and republic is, however, becoming blurred. Some monarchies are elective and some republics have hereditary presidents or prime ministers.

Elective monarchies exist in Cambodia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In Cambodia and Saudi Arabia, upon the demise of the king, the royal family elect one of their number as successor. This was the system which prevailed in Anglo-Saxon England to produce an adult king capable of leading his army into battle. In Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, the local monarchs elect one of their number to serve as head of state for a fixed term of five years. In Malaysia he is called Supreme Head of State; in the UAR, merely President.

In some republics, by contrast, the head of state is hereditary. In 1948, Kim il-Sung became first President of North Korea. On his death in 1994, his son Kim Jong-il succeeded him. The process was repeated in 2011 when Kim Jong-un succeeded. Similarly in Syria, Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father as President in 2000.

Several countries have had presidents who have succeeded their fathers: Azerbaijan, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Kenya, South Korea, and Togo. Uhuru Kenyatta became fourth President of Kenya in 2013; his father Jomo was the first President.

President Musaveni of Uganda appointed his son Commander of Special Forces and designated successor in 2008. In Egypt, President Mubarak likewise intended his son as successor, but his overthrow in 2011 prevented this.

Isabel Peron succeeded her husband as President of Argentina in 1974. In 2008, Raul Castro succeeded his brother Fidel as President of Cuba; brother also succeeded brother in Malawi. Christina Kirchner succeeded her husband as President of Argentina in 2011.

In other republics there is a ruling dynasty, each succeeding generation of which takes power. Nehru served as first Prime Minister of India 1947-1964. His daughter Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister 1966-1977 and again in 1980 until her assassination in October 1984. Her son Rajiv Gandhi was likewise Prime Minister from 1984-9. He too was assassinated, in May 1991. His son Rahul Gandhi is currently being groomed as future Prime Minister, thus proving that assassination cannot prevent dynastic government in India. Neighbouring Pakistan has a similar story. Zulfikar Bhutto was President 1971-1973 and then Prime Minister until deposed by the army in 1977, then executed. This did not prevent his daughter Benazir Bhutto serving as Prime Minister 1988-1990 and again 1993-1996. She was assassinated in December 2007 after returning from exile. Her husband Asif Ali Zardari however, served as President 2008-13. Their son Bilwal Bhutto Zadari will stand for election to the National Assembly in 2018, as first step on his journey to the Presidency. In 2009, Sheikh Hasina became Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, served as President and Prime Minister. Lee Kuan Yew was the first Prime Minister of Singapore (1959-90); his eldest son Lee Hsien Loong became third Prime Minister in 2004.

Even in the United States, several political dynasties have emerged. The son of John Adams (2nd President) became 6th President (John Quincy Adams). The grandson of William Harrison (9th President) became 23rd President (Benjamin Harrison). The husband of the niece of Theodore Roosevelt (26th President) became 32nd President (Franklin Roosevelt). John F. Kennedy (35th President) planned to be succeeded in turn by his brothers Robert and Edward, but fate intervened to prevent this. (Robert was assassinated and Edward was discredited by scandal). The son of George H. Bush (41st President) became 43rd President (George W. Bush).

The United States has imposed a two term limit for Presidents to prevent autocracy. Most other countries have followed suit. William H Harrison and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, were also Presidents. The Confederate States of America had a one term limit, as now does El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay and Vanuatu. In many African countries (eg Nigeria) tribal chiefs are prohibited from running for elected State office. Some countries have an unofficial ethic rotation of Presidents (Christian and Muslim in Nigeria; Xhosa and Zulu in South Africa). In several countries, scions of the exiled former royal dynasty have been granted citizenship on swearing loyalty to the republic, (eg Afghanistan, Albania, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia & Turkey). Measures are taken by republics to prevent the re-emergence of monarchy!

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