AskDefine | Define nepotist

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. One who practices or engages in nepotism.

Extensive Definition

Nepotism is the showing of favoritism toward relatives and friends, based upon that relationship, rather than on an objective evaluation of ability, meritocracy or suitability. For instance, offering employment to a relative, despite the fact that there are others who are better qualified and willing to perform the job, would be considered nepotism. The word nepotism is from the Latin word 'nepos', meaning "nephew" or "grandchild".

Papal 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 positions of preference such as were often accorded by fathers to sons. Several popes are known to have elevated nephews and other relatives to the cardinalate. Often, such appointments were used as 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. Paul also engaged in nepotism, appointing, for instance, two nephews (aged fourteen and sixteen) Cardinals. The practice was finally ended when Pope Innocent XII issued a 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. For example, the popular British English expression "Bob's your uncle" is often 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. More recently, when U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski was elected Governor of Alaska, he appointed his daughter, State Representative Lisa Murkowski, to fill the remaining two years of his seat and was accused by some of nepotism. John F. Kennedy was accused of nepotism for his appointment of his brother Robert Kennedy as Attorney General, and there have been many allegations of the same during the presidency of George W. Bush.
Many countries in the world have examples of this tilt towards dynastic rule, such as:
  • Azerbaijan: President Heydar Aliyev, who was suffering from failing health, appointed his son Ilham Aliyev Prime Minister during the last months of his presidency in 2003. Then just 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.
  • Trinidad and Tobago: 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. Additionally the Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday selected his brother Subhas and daughter Mikela to run in "safe seats" assuring their election.
  • Malaysia: Tun Abdul Razak, the second Prime Minister, and his son, Najib Tun Razak, the current Deputy Prime Minister; Khairy Jamaluddin who won his position as Deputy Chief of UMNO Youth Wing with the influence of his father-in-law, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the current Prime Minister.
  • Maldives: President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom once had 13 of his brothers, brothers-in-law, and classmates as members of his cabinet.
  • Singapore: Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, is the current Prime Minister of Singapore. Lee Hsien Loong was also the youngest Brigadier General in the Singapore Armed Forces. He joined the forces in 1971 and by 1983, he was the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. His wife (Lee Kuan Yew's daughter-in law), Ho Ching, is the Chief Executive Officer of Temasek Holdings, a government-controlled fund that owns assets over US$100 billion, including a large proportion of the largest Singaporean companies. These include SingTel, the largest South-East Asian telecom company, which was headed by Lee Hsien Yang (Lee Kuan Yew's younger son) from 1995 to 2006. Lee Hsien Yang became CEO of Singtel at age 38, after a successful career in the Singapore Armed Forces which saw him reach the rank of Brigadier General as well.
  • Syria: 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.
  • North Korea: 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 Korea, who died in 1994.
  • France: in 2008 Jean Sarkozy, son of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, stood for election in a canton in the affluent Parisian suburb of Neuilly, the same district in which his father was Mayor. The original candidate was a loyal member of Sakozy's UMP Party named Arnaud Teulle. He stepped aside to allow Jean Sarkozy to run. This resulted in French commentators announcing "behold, the rise of the dauphin".
  • England: in 2008, Max Gogarty wrote a travel blog for the Guardian unlimited., the 19 year old skins writer was highly criticised for being the son of Paul Gogarty who is also a travel writer for the same newspaper. Viciously criticised, the Guardian pulled the blog within 48 hours of its release on 14th February 2008.
  • Sri Lanka after winning the Presidential election in 2005 Mahinda Rajapakse appointed younger brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse a former army officer as the secretary of defense, another younger brother Basil Rajapakse as a minister, elder brother Chamal Rajapakse also as a minister he further went on to appoint several close friends and associates as presidential advisers including Sajin Vass Gunawardene who was also appointed CEO of the state owned Mihin Air, though he did not have any qualifications.
  • Vietnam 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.
  • Trinidad and Tobago Patrick Augustus Manning of the ruling PNM party appointed his wife Hazel Manning to the position of Minister of Education in his first term, and then to the Ministry of Local Government in his second term.
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 Egypt, the likely similar succession of Gamal Mubarak to the Presidency upon Hosni Mubarak's death is equivalent. In Iraq, had there not been an overthrow of the government of Saddam Hussein with the US-led invasion, it would have been highly likely that his younger son, Qusay Hussein, would have succeeded to the presidency.
In Romania nepotism is very commonly used as a word describing a 'connection' (relationship) that allows a person to obtain a certain job. 'Nepot' in Romanian means "nephew" or "grandson". During communist rule, nepotism was often the only way of getting a good, well-paid or otherwise advantageous job.
The government of Singapore is aware of the charges of nepotism around the ruling Lee family, and justifies the high positions of its family members on the assertion that they reached these positions due to merit alone, and that Singapore has a relatively limited talent base.


See also

nepotist in Arabic: محسوبية
nepotist in Bulgarian: Непотизъм
nepotist in Czech: Nepotismus
nepotist in Danish: Nepotisme
nepotist in German: Nepotismus
nepotist in Modern Greek (1453-): Νεποτισμός
nepotist in Spanish: Nepotismo
nepotist in Esperanto: Nepotismo
nepotist in Persian: پارتی‌بازی
nepotist in French: Népotisme
nepotist in Italian: Nepotismo
nepotist in Hebrew: נפוטיזם
nepotist in Dutch: Nepotisme
nepotist in Japanese: 縁故主義
nepotist in Norwegian: Nepotisme
nepotist in Polish: Nepotyzm
nepotist in Portuguese: Nepotismo
nepotist in Russian: Непотизм
nepotist in Slovak: Nepotizmus
nepotist in Serbian: Непотизам
nepotist in Finnish: Nepotismi
nepotist in Swedish: Nepotism
nepotist in Chinese: 裙帶關係
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