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Female leaders in political dynasties

Political dynasties may be good for the careers of female politicians or may work against them. An in-depth study reveals the intricate relationships that affect these women’s future as political leaders.
Female leaders in political dynasties
Recently, women have been emerging as central figures in political parties, furthering the goal of gender equality across the board. One important manifestation of this is evident in democratic political dynasties where women have superseded male politicians in their family. The EU-funded FAMGENPO (Family politics, party politics, and gender politics: Comparing five cases) project compared five instances where this phenomenon emerged. It focused on three key cases: Hillary Clinton (United States), Tzipi Livni (Israel) and Marine Le Pen (France).

The project documented events in the respective political parties, conducted interviews within the parties and analysed media content. It examined why the public accepts and/or embraces female politicians of political dynasties, including acceptance and rejection by party members and voters.

Research focused on how in European education the concepts of parental representation and student councils are organised around political parties. It found that university student activism is pivotal in producing party politicians in the future. In contrast, the American federal government structure precludes any direct link between local and national party activism.

Further research showed how Le Pen benefited from presenting herself by being born into the party, founded by her father. Livni however did not muster the same popularity as a political daughter and was not able to user her femininity alone as an advantage over other candidates. Clinton on the other hand suffered from populist anti-elitist critiques and her husband’s tainted legacy, despite highlighting a dedicated life to the party rather than marriage to it.

The project also focused on France’s National Front in depth, analysing gender, generational and ideological differences among candidates and parties. This facilitated understanding of the dynamic between political-dynastic membership and populism, as well as gender and the far right, radical right, race, class and social conservatism.

One key conclusion was that women from political dynasties could well become populist leaders in the right environment, as in Le Pen’s case. However, Livni’s case demonstrates that not embodying a party’s legacy, figure or programme hampers success, while Clinton’s stigma of being part of the ‘old establishment’ also worked against her.

Related information

Subjects

Life Sciences

Keywords

Female leaders, political dynasties, female politicians, FAMGENPO, family politics, gender politics
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