Opinion | Southeast Asian dynasties are rising again. That’s troubling news.

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo – known as Jokowi – has been barred from running for a third term next year. So far, he is officially neutral on his successor, but has indicated he is leaning towards his defense minister and former rival, Prabowo Subianto.

the reason? Jokowi’s son, Gibran Raqabuming Raqa, is Prabowo’s vice presidential contender. And Gibran’s presence on the ticket heralds the birth of a new political dynasty in the world’s fourth most populous country and third largest democracy.

It heralded an alarming development not only for Indonesia, but also for the developing countries of Southeast Asian democracies. As democracies around the world face growing threats — including in the United States and Europe — the world does not need more democratic backsliding. But that can happen in Southeast Asia, where democracy is fragile — and politics is increasingly a family business.

He is the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose reign in the 1970s and 80s was synonymous with the brutality of kleptocracy and martial law in the Philippines. Marcos Jr. known as “Bonbong”. He won by a landslide to replace the popular but term-limited President Rodrigo Duterte last year. Marcos Jr.’s path became easier when he named Duterte’s daughter Sara as his vice presidential candidate.

This year’s election in Thailand is a return to power. Shinawatra clan. The daughter of the ousted former Prime Minister Petong Tarn Shinawatra Thaksin Shinawatrais named The leader of the Fei Tai PartyHe placed second in the poll. Fei Tai, the first party, move forward. To form a new government In collaboration with the army.

After 15 years, Thaksin was able to live in self-imposed exile. Returning to the country in victory When the king of Thailand is reduced He was sentenced to eight years in prison. For corruption and abuse of power. Since then, he has regained control of the party he had saved in the bank.

And last summer, Cambodia’s longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen finally stepped down after more than three decades in power, taking control of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. Be the son of Manet As a substitute Prime Minister.

Cambodia’s Parliamentary Elections It is neither free nor fair.The sons of many of Hun Sen’s long-time supporters who are joining Hun Manet in the new cabinet are known to be on the rise. Shai Siha took over as Defense Minister from his father Shai Banh. Home Minister Sar Keng handed over his duties to his son Sar Soka.

Many countries have famous political dynasties – Canada has the Trudeaus, India has the Gandhi family, and the United States of course has the Kennedys, Bushes and Clintons. But American families have been hit hard at the ballot box lately. Jeb and George P. Think Bush or Hillary Clinton. The Kennedy dynasty, meanwhile, is divided, with many prominent members publicly dissociating themselves from the conspiracy. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential campaign.

In Southeast Asia, on the other hand, political dynasties are flourishing. In this region long controlled by military regimes, elections – even rigged elections – have become commonplace Very common after the 1990s And the end of the Cold War, when a wave of democracy rose across the world. But democratic norms and institutions, including political parties, remain far less common than elsewhere, making name recognition and lineage key avenues for political power. The dynasties also reflect high levels of inequality in the region, where wealth, education and political power remain the preserve of a few elite families.

Take Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. Almost all those who have taken over ministerial offices have benefited from overseas education. The new prime minister, Hun Manet, graduated from a US military academy, earned a master’s degree from New York University and a doctorate from the University of Bristol in England – opportunities most Cambodians can only dream of.

Placing relatives in key political positions is a way for leaders to extend their influence beyond their own ranks, protect their legacies — and in some cases, protect family fortunes.

But a dynasty tends to dull and stifle politics in the region, perpetuate inequality, imprison elites, and raise the possibility of corruption. If the system continues, ordinary people may lose hope in democracy at a time when China is pushing its authoritarian regime as a model and populism is on the rise worldwide.

If the son of Indonesia’s president became vice president was a surprise, it was because Jokowi’s choice of a political outsider had been marked. Stay away from the dynasty.

President Suharto’s 30-year rule was ousted in 1998 by popular uprisings against graft, corruption and nepotism. After Suharto, a program called “decentralization” led to nationwide regional elections and a new crop of politicians with no ethnic or military ties — including Jokowi, who was born in a slum and became governor of Jakarta.

Jokowi’s son Gibran, 36, who runs a chain of pancake restaurants and serves as Surakarta’s mayor, is under the legal age of 40 to run for president or vice president. But the country’s top judge made an exception. Doubts arose over the family agreement, as the judge, Anwar Usman, is Jokowi’s son-in-law.

If so, family conspiracy may not work As some choices suggest, Indonesian voters are set to let the ousted president’s son run for the country’s second-highest office. Elections in February could give Indonesia a much-needed boost to finally break the region’s radical politics and democratize. But the election may show that old-style elite politics are just as entrenched as new faces and new families.

Indonesians elect a new president, parliament and regional officials. The future of the region’s democracy may depend on their election.

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