However, the final days of the Rajapaksa dynasty in Sri Lanka tell a very different story.
His departure is a historic moment for the island nation of 22 million, which the Rajapaks have ruled with an iron fist for much of the past two decades before losing the faith of their once-adoring citizens.
“The sight of Gotabai Rajapaksa fleeing Sri Lanka on an air force plane represents the (fall) of this family,” said Ganeshan Vignaraja, senior fellow at UK think tank ODI Global.
“I don’t think their legacy is positive. But there is hope that Sri Lanka will move in a new direction.”
As jubilant Sri Lankans still swim in the presidential pool, sing in the presidential dining room and dance around the lavish presidential grounds, it’s clear that many share that optimism – at least for now.
What happens over the next 24 hours will largely determine the future of the country, and Rajapaksa’s long-term intentions are still unclear.
Rise of the Rajapaks
As the country takes its first steps into a new and exciting period, experts say it’s good to reflect on what went wrong the last time since the rise and fall of Rajapaksa.
This victory gave Mahinda Rajapaksa an almost inexhaustible source of political capital to draw upon, and he continued to enjoy 10 years of power during which he was respected by Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority. People called him “appacci” – the father of the nation – and people often bowed when he passed, and feared for him when he was unwell.
For most of his term, Mahinda Rajapaksa ran Sri Lanka like a family business, appointing his brothers to key positions; Gotabaya as Minister of Defense, Basil as Minister of Economic Development and Chamal as Speaker of Parliament.
And while the good times went on, despite criticisms of nepotism, the brothers remained popular. The country has experienced years of growth, fueled by huge government borrowing from abroad to fund public services.
But the good times didn’t last long.
Short break and return
While the civil war did much to create the legend of Mahinda Rajapaksa, it also contained the first signs of his downfall.
The government of Mahinda Rajapaksa has always vehemently denied such accusations.
However, his problems began to grow.
At the same time, anger over Mahinda’s alleged nepotism grew as signs of economic trouble emerged, and it became clear that there would be a price to pay for the government’s earlier largesse.
“Sri Lanka is a democratic country and people were shocked by such attempts at nepotism,” Wignaraja said. “It’s a combination of (nepotism) and economic mismanagement… people were upset that they chose these people.”
This might have been enough to finish off the lesser dynasty, but not the Rajapaksa.
In November of the same year, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected as the country’s new president. And, like his brother, he viewed management as a family affair.
“People once again expressed their full confidence in us,” said Mahinda Rajapaksa after a landslide victory in parliamentary elections a year later.
“We will fulfill their aspirations and will always appreciate the trust placed in us.”
Soon after, Gotabaya appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa.
However, as with his brother, cracks began to appear in Gotabai Rajapaksa’s presidency as questions about his government’s economic management continued to rise.
Murtaza Jafferji, chairman of the Colombo-based think tank Advocata Institute, said the massive increase in borrowing that Sri Lanka has begun to fund its public service has coincided with a series of hammer blows on Sri Lanka’s economy, from natural disasters such as strong monsoons, up to a person. -made.
Faced with huge deficits, Rajapaksa cut taxes in a doomed attempt to stimulate the economy.
But the move backfired, hitting government revenue instead. The rating agencies then downgraded Sri Lanka to near default, meaning the country lost access to foreign markets. Sri Lanka then had to use its foreign exchange reserves to pay off the public debt. This affected the import of fuel and other necessities, causing prices to skyrocket.
And they blame it on the Rajapakas. For months now, angry Sri Lankans have taken to the streets, accusing Gotabay and Mahinda Rajapaksa of mismanaging the economy.
These protests began peacefully but turned violent in May, causing Mahinda Rajapaksa to step down as prime minister. But his decision did little to quell the disappointment, and his brother remained in power as president.
For several weeks, Gotabaya clung, apparently unwilling to see the dynasty fall. But in the end, he had no choice, as the palatial home he once used to entertain the powerful was overrun by crowds fleeing the heat in its sparkling pool and picnicking on its sprawling lawn.
As Vignaraia noted, these images have become a worthy end to an era.
“You have the idea that the ruling elite are very wealthy and very corrupt, and the common man is in a very difficult position,” Vinyaraja said.
“Going from being seen as heroes to being driven out of your own home is unthinkable. This is a complete fall.”
Iqbal Athas of CNN contributed to this report.