Understanding family politics: Successes and failures of political dynasties in regional Indonesia

Edward Aspinall, Muhammad Uhaib As’ad

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The rise to power of political dynasties in regional Indonesia has been the subject of much critical analysis by scholars and journalists, with most seeing the phenomenon as a symptom of the wider democratic shortcomings of the post-Suharto period. This article examines the successes and travails of political dynasties in regional Indonesia by focusing on the province of Central Kalimantan. It begins by defining political dynasty, differentiating it from allied terms, outlining competing scholarly explanations for dynastic formation, and noting the critical issue of intergenerational succession. The article then examines subnational dynasty formation in Central Kalimantan, where in seven out of eight districts in the relevant time period a sitting bupati (district head) attempted to engineer dynastic succession, but succeeded in only two. The examination shows that while political opportunity structure accounts emphasising state and party weakness help explain the explosion of attempts to establish political dynasties in democratic Indonesia, the failure of most such attempts to consolidate inter-generationally indicates that we must be cautious in judging how stable these new political formations will become. Would-be subnational dynasties in Indonesia continue to face formidable competing sources of political authority which make it difficult for them to establish themselves over multiple generations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)420-435
    JournalSouth East Asia Research
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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