Gender, Political Dynasties, and Open-list PR Systems: Experience from Indonesia

Despite the vast recognition that political dynasties hamper democracy by generating patronage politics and corruption, the practices remain prevalent in present-day democracies (Chandra, 2016; Dal Bó et al., 2009; Smith, 2018). Studies on political dynasties have been predominantly interested in why political dynasties arise and persist, with particular focus put on explaining electoral and career advantages for dynasts (Asako et al., 2015; Feinstein, 2010). Others have observed the role of democratic institutions: electoral systems and political parties (Amundsen, 2016; Chandra, 2016; Chhibber, 2013).

On the other hand, the literature on political dynasties have shown that women are more likely to be dynastic than their male counterparts, and the disparity seems to apply to both the executive and legislative branches at national and local levels (Basu, 2016; Baturo & Gray, 2018; Folke et al., 2020; Jalalzai & Rincker, 2018). However, it remains unclear on how political dynasties in open-list PR systems operate in young democracies where parties are often described as being primarily clientelistic, personalistic, and driven by patronage (Allen, 2015; Fossati et al., 2020).

In a presentation delivered virtually at University of Canberra, Dr Ella S. Prihatini, lecturer of International Relations at Bina Nusantara (Binus) University offers a comprehensive understanding of political dynasties from both supply and demand factors by using Indonesia. As the world’s third most populous democracy and the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, the study helps us to understand the extent to which political dynasties are prevalent in a non-Western and Muslim democratic context (Purdey et al., 2016; Purdey & Mietzner, 2016). Also, the open-list PR system, introduced in 2004, has made Indonesia an interesting case to examine the effect of the electoral system on the rampant political dynastic practices.

The presentation makes several contributions to the literature on the determinants of political dynasties in a national parliament. It suggests that women and young politicians are benefitting from familial ties with local leaders, suggesting a clear motivation of political elites to keep a tight family grip on political office as the supply factor of political dynasties in parliament. This finding corroborates previous studies which suggest the party’s lack of organisational capacity is the driving force behind the demand for political dynasties (Amundsen, 2016; Chandra, 2016). In addition to the determinant factors, the current paper also contributes to the discussion of committee assignment by suggesting that dynastic members of parliament (MPs) tend to work in feminine and low prestige committees.

Ella S. Prihatini