Family dictatorship
A hereditary dictatorship, or family dictatorship, in political science terms a personalistic regime, is a form of dictatorship
A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator. It has three possible meanings:...

 that occurs in a nominally or formally republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

an regime, but operates in practice like an absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

, in that political power passes within the dictator's family. Thus, although the key leader is a called president
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 or prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 rather than a king
- Centers of population :* King, Ontario, CanadaIn USA:* King, Indiana* King, North Carolina* King, Lincoln County, Wisconsin* King, Waupaca County, Wisconsin* King County, Washington- Moving-image works :Television:...

 or emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

, power is transmitted between members of the same family due to the overwhelming authority of the leader.

A family dictatorship is different from an absolute monarchy. In the latter, the transition of power within a family is required by general law, and continues to apply to all successions in the regime. In the former, this arrangement is not required by general law. In some cases, a special law might be enacted to formally nominate one particular family member of the present leader as the successor. In other cases, the law of the state may even formally provide for elections, but control exerted by the leader on the political and electoral process ensures a hereditary succession. Furthermore, whether each succession succeeds depends on the level of authority and control of the leader. As a result, modern family dictatorships often transition into a non-familial (non-personalistic) regime after a small number of successions: usually just one, and rarely more than two.

A family dictatorship is also different from other political families. In the latter, informal power and influence accrued to the family enables the family to continue to hold political power, often through open and contested elections. In the former, the family uses either formal legal or political power or control to ensure a familial succession, and usually via a controlled or uncontested election, or no election at all.

Because a family dictatorship exerts significant control on its succession, a successor is often determined well in advance. However, because it often lacks a formal general law basis for the succession, there are often long periods of uncertainty as to the identity of the successor. As often happens in other types of totalitarian
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

 regimes which plan their own succession, after a successor is determined or short-listed, they often go through a significant period of "grooming", in which the successor gains the experiences and qualifications aimed to make him or her attain the authority necessary to lead the regime.

Successful transitions of power

Dates in parentheses denote the period of rule.
  • Rome
    Roman Empire
    The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

    : Augustus
    Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

     (27 BCE to 14 CE) succeeded by his adopted son Tiberius
    Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

    , succeeded by his adopted son Caligula
    Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

    , succeeded by his uncle Claudius
    Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

    , succeeded by his adopted son Nero
    Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

    . The office of the Roman Emperor
    Roman Emperor
    The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

    , although it began as a family dictatorship as defined above - that is, no general law determined succession, but solely the amassed power of the members of the family in question - became increasingly monarchical over time, especially once it was transferred between dynasties. By the time of Constantine
    Constantine I
    Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

    , the system had been effectively recognized as a hereditary monarchy, and the Empire's successor
    Succession of states
    Succession of states is a theory and practice in international relations regarding the recognition and acceptance of a newly created sovereign state by other states, based on a perceived historical relationship the new state has with a prior state...

    /continuing state, the Byzantine Empire
    Byzantine Empire
    The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

    , was explicitly monarchical (as evidenced by its motto, King of Kings Ruling Over Rulers).

  • England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

    : Oliver Cromwell
    Oliver Cromwell
    Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

     (1653–1658) succeeded as Lord Protector
    Lord Protector
    Lord Protector is a title used in British constitutional law for certain heads of state at different periods of history. It is also a particular title for the British Heads of State in respect to the established church...

     of the Commonwealth
    Commonwealth of England
    The Commonwealth of England was the republic which ruled first England, and then Ireland and Scotland from 1649 to 1660. Between 1653–1659 it was known as the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland...

     by his son Richard Cromwell
    Richard Cromwell
    At the same time, the officers of the New Model Army became increasingly wary about the government's commitment to the military cause. The fact that Richard Cromwell lacked military credentials grated with men who had fought on the battlefields of the English Civil War to secure their nation's...


  • Paraguay
    Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

    : Carlos Antonio López (1840–1862), succeeded by his son, Francisco Solano López
    Francisco Solano López (politician)
    Francisco Solano López Carrillo was president of Paraguay from 1862 until his death in 1870. He was officially the eldest son of president Carlos Antonio López, whom he succeeded...


  • El Salvador
    El Salvador
    El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

    : Carlos Meléndez
    Carlos Meléndez (politician)
    Carlos Meléndez Ramirez was President of El Salvador 9 February 1913 - 29 August 1914 and 1 March 1915 - 21 December 1918....

     (1915–1918), succeeded by his brother Jorge Meléndez
    Jorge Meléndez
    Jorge Meléndez Ramírez was born in San Salvador, El Salvador to Rafael Meléndez and Mercedes Ramírez. His wife was Tula Mazzini, and they had three children: Jorge , María de los Angeles, and Ricardo.He served as President of El Salvador from 1 March 1919 to 1 March 1923....

     (1919–1923), succeeded by his brother-in-law Alfonso Quiñónez Molina
    Alfonso Quiñónez Molina
    Alfonso Quiñónez Molina was President of El Salvador 21 December 1918 - 28 February 1919 and 1 March 1923 - 28 February 1927.He was born in Suchitoto, El Salvador....

     (acting 1918-1919, 1923–1927)

  • Nicaragua
    Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

    : Anastasio Somoza García
    Anastasio Somoza García
    Anastasio Somoza García was officially the President of Nicaragua from 1 January 1937 to 1 May 1947 and from 21 May 1950 to 29 September 1956, but ruled effectively as dictator from 1936 until his assassination.-Biography:Somoza was born in San Marcos, Carazo Department in Nicaragua, the son of...

     (1937–1947, 1950–1956), succeeded by his son Luis Somoza Debayle
    Luis Somoza Debayle
    Luis Anastasio Somoza Debayle was the President of Nicaragua from 29 September 1956 to 1 May 1963, but was effectively dictator of the country from 1956 until his death. He was born in León.Luis was educated at LSU...

     (1956–1963, de facto 1963-1967), succeeded by his brother Anastasio Somoza Debayle
    Anastasio Somoza Debayle
    Anastasio Somoza Debayle was a Nicaraguan leader and officially the 73rd and 76th President of Nicaragua from 1 May 1967 to 1 May 1972 and from 1 December 1974 to 17 July 1979. As head of the National Guard, he was de facto ruler of the country from 1967 to 1979...

     (1967–1972, de facto 1972-1974, 1974–1979)

  • Iraq
    Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

    : Abdul Salam Arif
    Abdul Salam Arif
    Abdul Salam Mohammed Arif Aljumaily was President of Iraq from 1963 till his death. He played a leading role in the coup in which the Hashemite monarchy was overthrown on July 14, 1958.-1958 revolution and conflict with Qasim:...

     (1963–1966), succeeded by his brother Abdul Rahman Arif
    Abdul Rahman Arif
    Hajj Abdul Rahman Mohammed Arif Aljumaily was president of Iraq from April 16, 1966 to July 17, 1968.-Biography:...


  • North Korea
    North Korea
    The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

    : Kim Il-sung
    Kim Il-sung
    Kim Il-sung was a Korean communist politician who led the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from its founding in 1948 until his death in 1994. He held the posts of Prime Minister from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to his death...

     (1948–1994), succeeded by his son Kim Jong-il
    Kim Jong-il
    Kim Jong-il, also written as Kim Jong Il, birth name Yuri Irsenovich Kim born 16 February 1941 or 16 February 1942 , is the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea...

     (1994–). Kim Jong-il didn't officially take office until 1997, when his father was posthumously given the position of Eternal President. On 2 June 2009, it was reported that Kim Jong Il's youngest son, Kim Jong-un, was to be North Korea's next leader. Like his father and grandfather, he has also been given an official sobriquet, The Brilliant Comrade. It has been reported that Kim Jong Il is expected to officially designate the son as his successor in 2012.

  • Haiti
    Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

    : François Duvalier
    François Duvalier
    François Duvalier was the President of Haiti from 1957 until his death in 1971. Duvalier first won acclaim in fighting diseases, earning him the nickname "Papa Doc" . He opposed a military coup d'état in 1950, and was elected President in 1957 on a populist and black nationalist platform...

     (1957–1971), succeeded by his son Jean-Claude Duvalier
    Jean-Claude Duvalier
    Jean-Claude Duvalier, nicknamed "Bébé Doc" or "Baby Doc" was the President of Haiti from 1971 until his overthrow by a popular uprising in 1986. He succeeded his father, François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, as the ruler of Haiti upon his father's death in 1971...


  • Antigua and Barbuda
    Antigua and Barbuda
    Antigua and Barbuda is a twin-island nation lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of two major inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands...

    : Vere Cornwall Bird (1981–1994), succeeded by his son Lester Bryant Bird (1994–2004)

  • Togo
    Togo, officially the Togolese Republic , is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately with a population of approximately...

    : Gnassingbé Eyadéma
    Gnassingbé Eyadéma
    General Gnassingbé Eyadéma , was the President of Togo from 1967 until his death in 2005. He participated in two successful military coups, in January 1963 and January 1967, and became President on April 14, 1967...

     (1967–2005), succeeded by his son Faure Gnassingbé
    Faure Gnassingbé
    Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé has been the President of Togo since May 4, 2005. A son of President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, he was appointed to the government by his father, serving as Minister of Equipment, Mines, Posts, and Telecommunications from 2003 to 2005...

     (2005–). Under international pressure, Faure had to resign on February 25, 2005, but was re-elected in April.

  • Syria
    Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

    : Hafez al-Assad
    Hafez al-Assad
    Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

     (1971–2000), succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad
    Bashar al-Assad
    Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

     (2000–). Bashar's elder brother, Basil al-Assad
    Basil al-Assad
    Bassel al-Assad was a son of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad .- Biography :...

    , had been designated for the presidency but died in 1994, six years prior to his father's death.

  • Azerbaijan
    Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

    : Heydar Aliyev
    Heydar Aliyev
    Heydar Alirza oglu Aliyev , also spelled as Heidar Aliev, Geidar Aliev, Haydar Aliyev, Geydar Aliyev was the third President of Azerbaijan for the New Azerbaijan Party from June 1993 to October 2003, when his son Ilham Aliyev succeeded him.From 1969 till 1982, Aliyev was also the leader of Soviet...

     (1993–2003), succeeded by his son Ilham Aliyev
    Ilham Aliyev
    Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev is the President of Azerbaijan since 2003. He also functions as the Chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party and the head of the National Olympic Committee...


  • Congo-Kinshasa
    Democratic Republic of the Congo
    The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

    : Laurent-Désiré Kabila
    Laurent-Désiré Kabila
    Laurent-Désiré Kabila was President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from May 17, 1997, when he overthrew Mobutu Sese Seko, until his assassination by his bodyguards on January 18, 2001...

     (1997–2001), succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila
    Joseph Kabila
    Joseph Kabila Kabange is a Congolese politician who has been President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since January 2001. He took office ten days after the assassination of his father, President Laurent-Désiré Kabila...

     (2001–). Joseph Kabila was democratically elected in October 2006.

  • Cuba
    The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

    : Fidel Castro
    Fidel Castro
    Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

     (prime minister 1959-1976, president 1976-2008), succeeded on an interim basis
    2006 Cuban transfer of presidential duties
    The 2006–2008 Cuban transfer of presidential duties was a transfer of duties of the Cuban presidency from Fidel Castro to the first vice president, his brother Raúl Castro, following Fidel's operation and recovery from an undisclosed digestive illness believed to be diverticulitis...

     and later permanently by his brother, Raúl Castro
    Raúl Castro
    Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz is a Cuban politician and revolutionary who has been President of the Council of State of Cuba and the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba since 2008; he previously exercised presidential powers in an acting capacity from 2006 to 2008...

     (acting president 2006-2008, president 2008–)

  • Gabon
    Gabon , officially the Gabonese Republic is a state in west central Africa sharing borders with Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, and with the Republic of the Congo curving around the east and south. The Gulf of Guinea, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean is to the west...

    : Omar Bongo
    Omar Bongo
    El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba , born as Albert-Bernard Bongo, was a Gabonese politician who was President of Gabon for 42 years from 1967 until his death in office in 2009....

     (President 1967-2009) died in June 2009. His son Ali Bongo Ondimba succeeded him after winning a disputed election in August 2009.

Indirect successions

  • Republic of China
    Republic of China
    The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

     (from 1949 on Taiwan): Chiang Kai-shek
    Chiang Kai-shek
    Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

     (1928–1975) indirectly succeeded by his son Chiang Ching-kuo
    Chiang Ching-kuo
    Chiang Ching-kuo , Kuomintang politician and leader, was the son of President Chiang Kai-shek and held numerous posts in the government of the Republic of China...

  • Chechnya
    The Chechen Republic , commonly referred to as Chechnya , also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia, sometimes referred to as Ichkeria , is a federal subject of Russia . It is located in the southeastern part of Europe in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The capital of the republic is the city of Grozny...

    : Akhmad Kadyrov
    Akhmad Kadyrov
    Hajji Akhmad Abdulkhamidovich Kadyrov , also spelled Akhmat, was the Chief Mufti of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in the 1990s during and after the First Chechen War...

     (2000–2004) indirectly succeeded by his son Ramzan Kadyrov
    Ramzan Kadyrov
    Ramzan Akhmadovich Kadyrov is the President of Chechnya and a former Chechen rebel.Ramzan is a son of former Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, assassinated in May 2004. In February 2007 Kadyrov replaced Alu Alkhanov as President, shortly after he had turned 30, which is the minimum age for the post...

     (since 2007)

Unsuccessful transitions of power

  • Dominican Republic
    Dominican Republic
    The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

    : Rafael Trujillo (de facto 1930-1961, with brother Héctor
    Héctor Trujillo
    Hector Bienvenido Trujillo Molina , general, and political figure; president of Dominican Republic 1952-1960; brother of Rafael Trujillo.-Biography:...

     serving as figurehead president 1952-1960), nominally succeeded by his son Ramfis Trujillo
    Ramfis Trujillo
    Lieutenant General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Martínez , better known as Ramfis Trujillo, was the son of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina and María Martínez...

     for a few months in 1961; Ramfis failed to fully consolidate his power over the country and was overthrown.

Potential successions

  • Equatorial Guinea
    Equatorial Guinea
    Equatorial Guinea, officially the Republic of Equatorial Guinea where the capital Malabo is situated.Annobón is the southernmost island of Equatorial Guinea and is situated just south of the equator. Bioko island is the northernmost point of Equatorial Guinea. Between the two islands and to the...

    : It is rumored that president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
    Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
    Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is an Equatoguinean politician who has been President of Equatorial Guinea since 1979. He ousted his uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema, in an August 1979 military coup and has overseen Equatorial Guinea's emergence as an important oil producer, beginning in the 1990s...

    's son Teodoro Nguema Obiang is his father's favorite to succeed him. However, it is suspected that a power struggle between the younger Teodoro and his uncle Armengol Ondo Nguema
    Armengol Ondo Nguema
    Armengol Ondo Nguema is the younger brother of Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang, as well as being head of the president's Israeli-trained security detail....

     might occur after the president's death.
  • Kazakhstan
    Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

    : Analysts believe long-time president Nursultan Nazarbayev
    Nursultan Nazarbayev
    Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev has served as the President of Kazakhstan since the nation received its independence in 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union...

     has been preparing his daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva
    Dariga Nazarbayeva
    Dariga Nursultanqyzy Nazarbayeva is a Kazakh lawmaker and daughter of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev....

    to succeed him. Recently however, relations between the two have deteriorated because of criticism she sometimes expresses of her father's government.

External links

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