Widows and Daughters
By MICHAEL FATHERS
Mothers, goddesses, virgins--the symbols have always been there. Yet in 20th century Asia, women have also gained positions of political leadership, usually after some catastrophe befell a politician husband or father. And though the rise of a long downtrodden sex is to be applauded, Asia's women have not all been good rulers. Nor has the persistence of family dynasties been good for democracy. A gallery of Asia's leading women:
Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan:
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Nine years after a military regime executed her father, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, she was elected to his former post. Her rule was blighted by bickering and corruption, and she was twice ousted by presidential decree and then trounced at the polls, most recently in a 1997 election.
Sheik Hasina Wazed, Prime Minister of Bangladesh:
Her father President Sheik Mujibur Rahman, her mother and three brothers were murdered during a 1975 military coup. Away from the country at the time, Sheik Hasina returned in 1981 to take over her father's party and won a 1996 election.
Khaleda Zia, former Prime Minister of Bangladesh:
Widow of assassinated President Ziaur Rahman, she took over her husband's party in 1982 and won office in 1991.
Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India:
Chosen by Congress party bosses in 1966 as a prime minister they could manipulate, the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru built a mass following, split the party and established herself as supreme leader. She was assassinated in 1984 by bodyguards.
Sonia Gandhi, Congress party leader:
Italian-born wife of Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded his mother as Prime Minister and was himself assassinated in 1991, she stayed out of politics until last year, when she was called in to rescue the dynasty's sinking party.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike, former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka:
She succeeded her husband as Premier in 1960 after he was assassinated by a Buddhist monk. Ruthless and determined, she dominated the island's politics for nearly three decades.
Chandrika Kumaratunga, President of Sri Lanka:
The victor in a fight with her brother and her overbearing mother, Sirimavo, to take over the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, she came to power in a 1994 election offering a more transparent democracy. But her government is bogged down in a war with Tamil separatists.
Megawati Sukarnoputri, presidential candidate:
Daughter of Sukarno, Indonesia's first President, she saw her party come out on top this year in the country's first free elections since her father was ousted in a 1965 coup.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner:
The only child of murdered independence hero Aung San, she returned to Burma from abroad in 1988 and became a symbol of opposition. Now under house arrest, she won a 1990 election that the military has refused to recognize.