When A Dictator Dies

September 17, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Andrea Kendall-Taylor, and Erica Frantz wrote about what happens when a dictator dies:

  • Many are hopeful that when Robert Mugabe, the 91 year old dictator of Zimbabwe, and Nursultan Nazarbayev, his 75 year old Kazakh counterpart pass away, democracy will finally have a chance to flourish in the countries.
  • Others feel that the passing of old dictators could throw a country into chaos as rival factions compete for power.
  • Evidence indicates that both are incorrect. Usually after a dictator passes, the status quo just sort of continues. This happened after Ch├ívez’s, passing in Venezuela, and Kim Jong Il’s death in North Korea.
  • One reason is that while a dictator may get all the attention, in reality they rule with a wider government that ensures continuity after the head dies.
  • This is what happened to Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad. He took over when his father passed away, and tried to liberalize the country. However figures from his father’s regime thwarted him.
  • Another reason is the strength of succession plans. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are strong monarchies and nobody expects there to be uprisings after their aged leaders pass away.
  • Leaders who have the luxury of being able to die in office must have been particularly adept at crushing opposition, eliminating dissent, and corrupting institutions over the decades.
  • Therefore the very things that allow a dictator to die in office also ensures that the dictator’s legacy lives on.
  • That’s not to say there’s no hope for regime change. Evidence indicates that coups, elections, and term limits are effective ways to end dictatorships.

The full article provides many more details, and explores other fascinating tangents. You should read it here.

Source: Foreign Policy