The Sons Also Rise

The looming succession of Ilam Aliyev to replace his dying father, Haider Aliyev, as Azerbaijan's ruler marks a triumph of nepotism on a scale other postcommunist leaders can only dream about. But Azerbaijan's dynastic politics are hardly exceptional. One Bush has practically succeeded another as America's president, and the son of Singapore's founder, Lee Kwan Hew, is to become the country's premier. Indeed, democratic leaders with dynastic dreams have bedeviled India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Haiti, and many other countries.

Despite Communists' self-proclaimed ``divine right'' to a monopoly on power, other systems have proven far more vulnerable to monarchist seizures. Until the Aliyev's came along, only North Korea's utterly loony Kim Il Sung managed to anoint his son atop a red throne. Otherwise, communist patriarchs--and their often scarcely more democratic postcommunist successors--have not seen fit to pitch their bloodlines against the sprawling institutional bureaucracy left behind by Leninism. Why?

By its nature communism--whose bureaucracy still exists in almost unadulterated form in the countries of the former Soviet Union--spawned lobbies and clans with a combined might that even the closest-knit family can scarcely expect to overcome. As a result, postcommunists prefer to place their offspring in lucrative commercial jobs where they can pile up foreign-currency fortunes.

(Even President Aliyev groomed his son for power by installing him as vice-president of SOCAR, the vastly lucrative state oil monopoly.)