The Staying Power of Dynastic Politicians in the Philippines

The Staying Power of Dynastic Politicians in the Philippines by Nico Ravanilla, Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia (Issue 22), Young Academics Voice, September 2017

… And How We Might Think About Reforms that Could Undermine Their Entrenchment.

Elections in the Philippines are a family affair. Family dynasties control the political landscape, fielding candidates at all levels of government. The current makeup of the Philippine Senate is illustrative: a third of current Filipino Senators are either related to one of the last six Presidents or to former members of the Senate. But where political families are most prevalent is at the local level. What explains why the Philippines tend to elect candidates from the same set of political clans?

One explanation is that dynastic candidates tend to come from central families in social networks, and these families have an advantage in winning office. In a recent article published in American Economic Review, Cruz, Labonne and Querubin (forthcoming) find evidence that centrality in family networks matter a lot for the electoral success of mayoral candidates in the Philippines. Candidates from central families are not only more likely to stand for office; they also capture greater vote-shares all else equal. But what explains the electoral success of candidates from well-connected families? In a new paper, my co-authors and I argue that a key part of the answer is because family networks matter a lot to voters.

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