Dynastic Politics and Underdevelopment

Project Duration: 2013 to 2015

While dynastic politics is often cited as a driver of underdevelopment, there is little evidence to back that claim. This projects studies the relationship between political dynasties and underdevelopment in Pakistan through rigorous data collection dynastic dominance and political competition. It identifies both facts and popular myths surrounding political dynasties, as well what the implications are for making politics more conducive for development.

To what extent is underdevelopment in Pakistan a result of the dominance of electoral politics by dynastic families, and does the presence of these families render politics uncompetitive? The dominance of dynastic politicians is a common explanation used to explain Pakistan’s poor socio-economic outcomes by national and international analysts and by the media. Yet, there is little rigorous evidence on both the extent of dynastic dominance in Pakistan, and its impact on political competition and underdevelopment.

The project is organized in three phases:

  • Phase I: This phase aims to provide rigorous evidence on the extent of dynastic dominance and how it compares to other polities. The main aim is to determine how large a problem dynastic dominance is in Pakistan and to identify variations that exist in dynastic dominance. This evidence is produced using a unique and original database of familial linkages (constructed as part of the project) among the top three contestants in national and provincial assembly races in all elections between 1970 and 2013. This phase of the project also provides evidence on regional and inter-party variation in dynastic dominance and analyzes whether historic inequality and the differences in the rate of urbanization can explain this variation. This phase is near completion.
  • Phase II: This phase aims to analyze the impact of variations in dynastic dominance on political competition, the ease of entry of new players in the electoral sphere and the extent to which the citizen-politician nexus is built around personalized patron-client structures rather than mediated by party cadres and organization. The impact of dynastic dominance on political competition will be analyzed quantitatively using our database of familial linkages and the Election Commission of Pakistan’s database of electoral results. The impact of dynastic dominance on ease of entry into electoral politics and the structure of the citizen-politician nexus will be analyzed through in-depth case studies and qualitative surveys that map the mechanisms citizens use to access politicians; how politicians organize citizen voting groups; the vote organizers politicians use to organize votes and the manner in which electoral tickets are allocated to candidates by political parties in local elections. This phase will address the extent to which electoral competition gets muted because of dynastic dominance and document mechanisms and structures used to sustain dynastic dominance. This phase will be undertaken in the calendar year 2014-15.
  • Phase III: This phase will provide rigorous evidence of the impact of dynastic dominance on the under-provision of public goods. During this phase we will frame reform suggestions based on the evidence collected during Phases I and II that aim to reduce the barriers to entry in electoral politics, increase electoral competition and reduce capture by dynastic politicians and their clients.
Research Outputs
Missing Women Voters? DAWN News May 7, 2013