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Nepotism is favouritism granted to relatives or friends, without regard to their merit. The word nepotism is from the Latin word nepos (meaning "nephew" or "grandchild").

Types of nepotism


Nepotism gained its name after the church practice in the Middle Ages, when some Catholic popes and bishops, who had taken vows of chastity, and therefore usually had no children of their own, gave their nephews such positions of preference as were often accorded by fathers to son.

Several popes elevated nephews and other relatives to the cardinalate. Often, such appointments were a means of continuing a papal "dynasty".

For instance, Pope Callixtus III, head of the Borgia family, made two of his nephews Cardinals; one of them, Rodrigo, later used his position as a Cardinal as a stepping stone to the papacy, becoming Pope Alexander VI. Coincidentally, Alexander elevated Alessandro Farnese, his mistress's brother, to the cardinalate; Farnese would later go on to become Pope Paul III.

Paul also engaged in nepotism, appointing, for instance, two nephews, aged fourteen and sixteen, as cardinals. The practice was finally ended when Pope Innocent XII issued the bull Romanum decet Pontificem, in 1692. The papal bull prohibited popes in all times from bestowing estates, offices, or revenues on any relative, with the exception that one qualified relative (at most) could be made a Cardinal.


Nepotism is a common accusation in politics when the relative of a powerful figure ascends to similar power seemingly without appropriate qualifications. The British English expression "Bob's your uncle" is thought to have originated when Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, promoted his nephew, Arthur Balfour, to the esteemed post of Chief Secretary for Ireland in what was widely seen as an act of nepotism.


Anna Bligh, who won the 2008 Queensland State election has been accused of nepotism by giving her husband Greg Withers a bureaucratic position.

President Heydar Aliyev appointed his son Ilham Aliyev Prime Minister during the last months of his presidency in 2003. Prior to the election the elder Aliyev dropped out and put his son up as presidential candidate instead. Aliyev was elected to the presidency and his father died just two months later, having successfully sealed the transfer of power to his son.
Former PM Khaleda Zia is accused of favouring her son Tareq Zia in political arena .

In 2009, Voreqe Bainimarama appointed Francis Kean, his brother-in-law, at the head of the naval forces (though Francis Kean had served a jail sentence) .
  • In 2008 Jean Sarkozy, second son of President Nicolas Sarkozy, stood for election in a canton in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, in a district of which his father used to be mayor. The original candidate (a loyal member of Sarkozy's UMP Party) stepped aside to allow Jean Sarkozy to run. This resulted in French commentators announcing "behold, the rise of the dauphin" .
  • In October 2009 Jean Sarkozy is about to become EPAD's director despite lacking any real diploma yet and having no professional experience .
  • In September 2009 Pierre Sarkozy, first son of President Nicolas Sarkozy, asked SCPP for a financial help (of around 10000€) towards an 80000€ artistic project. Pierre Sarkozy not being an SCPP member, financing was automatically rejected. Following the refusal, he went to the Élyséemarker which lead to an Élysée counsel contacting the SCPP, and SCPP president Marc Guez assuring the issue would soon be favorably resolved. According to Abeille Music president and SCPP member Yves Riesel, however, this will not happen as SCPP's financial helps have been restricted to members only for months.

  • Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis entered to the Parliament in 1989 after his election in the 1st District of Thessaloniki as a MP of New Democracy, a party founded by his uncle, Constantine Karamanlis. He has also included Michalis Liapis, his cousin, in two of his cabinets .
  • George Papandreou, Leader of the Official Opposition in Hellenic Parliament, was firstly elected MP in 1981 with PASOK, the party led by his father, Andreas, and has been included in numerous cabinets under either his father or Kostas Simitis.
  • Dora Bakoyannis, Greek Foreign Minister, served as Minister for Culture under her father, Constantine Mitsotakis, New Democracy Chairman for eight years. Her brother, Kyriakos, is also a MP.

  • The Nehru-Gandhi Family has shown a strong tendency for nepotism, as manifested through dynastic politics. A recent example is the rise of Rahul Gandhi.
  • In the state of Tamilnadumarker, politician Karunanidhi has promoted many of his family members in various leadership positions in his party DMK; his first son M. K. Azhagiri controls the party in southern areas, his second son M.K. Stalin is nominated for next party president and Chief ministerial candidate, his daughter Kanimozhi is Member of Parliament, and his nephew Murasoli Maran and grand nephew Dayanidhi Maran were central ministers .
  • In the state of Punjab, the present Chief Minister Parkash Badal has appointed his son Sukhbir Badal as deputy CM, projecting him as a likely future Chief Minister.
President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom has had thirteen of his brothers, brothers-in-law, and classmates as members of his cabinet.
  • The President of Mauritania is infamous for appointing his relatives into high positions .

North Koreamarker
Kim Jong-il became Chairman of the National Defense Commission, Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, and General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (the ruling party since 1948), succeeding his father Kim Il-sung, the founder of the Democratic People's Republic of Koreamarker, who died in 1994. In turn, Kim Jong-un, his son is touted to succeed him.
  • Benazir Bhutto was appointed the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party without direct election because she was the daughter of former leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Upon Benazir's death her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was appointed co-chairman without election despite being only eighteen years old at the time and lacking any knowledge of politics or life in Pakistan. The other chairman of the PPP was Benazir's husband Asif Ali Zardari who was accused of widespread corruption during his wife's previous terms in office .
  • Nawaz Sharif the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League has appointed his brother Shahbaz Sharif as an unelected vice-preseident of his party. Sharif had also appointed his son's father in law, Ishaq Dar as the finance minister during his tenure in office.
Elena Basescu, the daughter of the current president Traian Basescu, was elected president of the youth organization in the political party which was ruled by Traian Basescu before becoming president of Romania. She was subsequently elected, in June 2009,in the European Parliament, despite her youth and unpopularity.

Sri Lankamarker
After winning the Presidential election in 2005 Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed 3 of his brothers to his government: Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a former army officer, as the secretary of defense ; Basil Rajapaksa as Senior Adviser to President and Chamal Rajapaksa as Cabinet Minister of Ports & Aviation and Irrigation & Water Management . He also appointed several close friends and associates as presidential advisers , including Sajin Vass Gunawardene (CEO of the state owned Mihin Air, though he did not have any qualifications.). Mahinda Rajapaksa also made his son a cadet officer even though he did not meet certain requirements .

Bashar al-Assad was appointed as President after his father Hafez's death, despite being too young for the post under the country's constitution as it then stood.
Trinidad and Tobagomarker
Prime Minister Patrick Manning appointed his unelected wife Hazel Manning to the Cabinet for two consecutive terms, first as Minister of Education and currently as Minister of Local Government.
United Statesmarker

After "winning" the first ever democratic election in South Vietnam in 1955, Ngo Dinh Diem appointed his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu in charge of the private armies and secret police. Ngô Đình Cẩn, his younger brother, was put in charge of the former Imperial City of Huế.
President Hugo Chavez and Cilia Flores, president of the Venezuela National Assembly, are also known for their influences to get family members in the government. Flores managed to place relatives in as many as nine of sixty permanent positions at the National Assembly- three siblings, two nephews, a cousin, the mother of that cousin, her mother-in-law and an aunt.

At some point, nepotism at high levels of government might serve to create what are in effect monarchies in nominal republics. In Syria, the case of the al-Assads mentioned above is one example. In Egyptmarker, the likely similar succession of Gamal Mubarak to the Presidency upon Hosni Mubarak's death is equivalent.

In entertainment

Outside of national politics, accusations of "nepotism" are made in instances of prima facie favouritism to relatives, such as:
  • Peaches Geldof's role as magazine editor in an MTV reality show - produced by a company owned by her father Bob Geldof. In a sketch of The Kevin Bishop Show, which frequently has less-than-flattering fake perfume adverts for celebrities, Peaches Geldof got one - "Nepotism, the smell of Peaches Geldof". Before this, a mock voice said "I'm a fashion model, a TV presenter, and I'm a journalist as well...did I mention my dad's Bob Geldof?"
  • The Coppola Family of Hollywood includes many distinguished filmmakers. The careers of both Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Cage are attributed to aid by director Francis Ford Coppola who cast his daughter Sofia in The Godfather Part III. Nonetheless, both have subsequently established independent careers. Indeed Cage changed his last name in order to avoid such charges.

Social and economic effects

Nepotism and cronyism can have short- and long-term effects on a society, depending on the extent of the takeup and social acceptability of these practices.

Areas in which, it is believed, nepotism has negative societal effects:
  • the civil service
  • intergovermental and intragovermental relations (ambassadors, civil-service attached personnel)

See also


  1. Modern Language Association (MLA):"nepotism." The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 10 Aug. 2009.
  2. Des Houghton, June 28, 2008. "Anna Bligh's Labor in trouble in the polls". Couriermail, Retrieved August 17, 2009
  3. Poll shows majority against job for Sarkozy's son
  4. Népotisme et Sarkozysme, acte II (màj)
  5. Après Jean, un coup de pouce de l'Elysée pour Pierre Sarkozy
  6. Après Jean, l'Elysée se met au service de Pierre Sarkozy
  9. Peaches Geldof bags TV reality show as magazine editor
  10. EXTRA: Nepotism in the Director's Chair at
  11. Nothing is true, everything is permitted - Coppola nepotism hate
  12. Nicolas Cage - Biography

Further reading

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