Strongman (politics)

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A strongman is a political leader who rules by force and runs a monarchy or authoritarian regime or totalitarian regime. The term is often used interchangeably with "dictator" in the western world, but differs from a "warlord" and commonly lacks the negative connotations especially in some Eastern European and Central Asian countries.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

Authoritarianism is a form of government characterized by strong central power and limited political freedoms. Individual freedoms are subordinate to the state and there is no constitutional accountability and rule of law under an authoritarian regime. Authoritarian regimes can be autocratic with power concentrated in one person or it can be more spread out between multiple officials and government institutions. Juan Linz's influential 1964 description of authoritarianism characterized authoritarian political systems by four qualities:

  1. Limited political pluralism, that is such regimes place constraints on political institutions and groups like legislatures, political parties and interest groups;
  2. A basis for legitimacy based on emotion, especially the identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat "easily recognizable societal problems" such as enemies of the people or state, underdevelopment or insurgency;
  3. Minimal social mobilization most often caused by constraints on the public such as suppression of political opponents and anti-regime activity;
  4. Informally defined executive power with often vague and shifting, but vast powers.
Totalitarianism political system in which the state holds total authority

Totalitarianism is a political concept of a mode of government that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism. Political power in totalitarian states has often been held by rule by one leader which employ all-encompassing propaganda campaigns broadcast by state-controlled mass media. Totalitarian regimes are often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, restriction of speech, mass surveillance and widespread use of state terrorism. Historian Robert Conquest describes a "totalitarian" state as one recognizing no limits to its authority in any sphere of public or private life and which extends that authority to whatever length feasible.

A strongman is not necessarily always a formal head of state or head of government; sometimes journalists use the term to describe a military or political figure who exercises far more influence over the government than a local constitution allows. General Manuel Noriega, for example, was often dubbed the "Strongman of Panama" for the enormous amount of political power he exercised over Panama, although he was not the formal president or prime minister of the state. In practice, his role was that of a dictator, or sometimes monarch.

A head of state is the public persona who officially represents the national unity and legitimacy of a sovereign state. Depending on the country's form of government and separation of powers, the head of state may be a ceremonial figurehead or concurrently the head of government. In a parliamentary system the head of state is the de jure leader of the nation, and there is a separate de facto leader, often with the title of prime minister. In contrast, a semi-presidential system has both heads of state and government as the leaders de facto of the nation.

The head of government is either the highest or second highest official in the executive branch of a sovereign state, a federated state, or a self-governing colony, who often presides over a cabinet, a group of ministers or secretaries who lead executive departments. "Head of government" is often differentiated from "head of state", as they may be separate positions, individuals, or roles depending on the country.

Manuel Noriega Panamanian head of state

Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno was a Panamanian politician and military officer who was the de facto ruler of Panama from 1983 to 1989. He had longstanding ties to United States intelligence agencies; however, he was removed from power by the U.S. invasion of Panama.

See also

Monarchy system of government where the head of state position is inherited within family

A monarchy is a form of government in which a single person holds supreme authority in ruling a country, also performing ceremonial duties and embodying the country's national identity. Although some monarchs are elected, in most cases, the monarch's position is inherited and lasts until death or abdication. In these cases, the royal family or members of the dynasty usually serve in official capacities as well. The governing power of the monarch may vary from purely symbolic, to partial and restricted, to completely autocratic.

The terms big man, big man syndrome, and bigmanism, within the context of political science, refer to corrupt, autocratic and often totalitarian rule of countries by a single person.


Bonapartism is the political ideology of Napoleon Bonaparte and his followers and successors. It was later used to refer to people who hoped to restore the House of Bonaparte and its style of government. In this sense, a Bonapartiste was a person who either actively participated in or advocated conservative, monarchist and imperial political faction in 19th century France. After Napoleon, the term was applied to the French politicians who seized power in the coup of 18 Brumaire, ruling in the French Consulate and subsequently in the First and Second French Empires. The Bonapartistes desired an empire under the House of Bonaparte, the Corsican family of Napoleon Bonaparte and his nephew Louis.

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Dictator An absolutist or autocratic ruler who assumes sole power over the state

A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A state which is ruled by a dictator is called a dictatorship. The word originated as the title of a magistrate in the Roman Republic appointed by the Senate to rule the republic in times of emergency.

Dictatorship form of autocratic government led by a single individual

A dictatorship is an authoritarian form of government, characterized by a single leader or group of leaders with either no party or a weak party, little mass mobilization, and limited political pluralism. According to other definitions, democracies are regimes in which "those who govern are selected through contested elections"; therefore dictatorships are "not democracies". With the advent of the 19th and 20th centuries, dictatorships and constitutional democracies emerged as the world's two major forms of government, gradually eliminating monarchies, one of the traditional widespread forms of government of the time. Typically, in a dictatorial regime, the leader of the country is identified with the title of dictator, although their formal title may more closely resemble something similar to "leader". A common aspect that characterized dictators is taking advantage of their strong personality, usually by suppressing freedom of thought and speech of the masses, in order to maintain complete political and social supremacy and stability. Dictatorships and totalitarian societies generally employ political propaganda to decrease the influence of proponents of alternative governing systems.

An autocracy is a system of government in which supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control. Absolute monarchies and dictatorships are the main modern-day forms of autocracy. Symptoms of an autocracy, due possibly to the lack of repercussions to an unpopular or negative decision, often include standards of living that are poorer than elsewhere although this is not always the case. Autocracies often contain scrupulous censorship and opinions directed against the autocratic ruler may often have negative consequences.

A one-party state, single-party state, one-party system, or single-party system is a type of state in which one political party has the right to form the government, usually based on the existing constitution. All other parties are either outlawed or allowed to take only a limited and controlled participation in elections. Sometimes the term de facto one-party state is used to describe a dominant-party system that, unlike the one-party state, allows democratic multiparty elections, but the existing practices or balance of political power effectively prevent the opposition from winning the elections.

President for life is a title assumed by or granted to some leaders to remove their term limit irrevocably as a way of removing future challenges to their authority and legitimacy. The title sometimes confers on the holder the right to nominate or appoint a successor. The usage of the title of "president for life" rather than a traditionally autocratic title, such as that of a monarch, implies the subversion of liberal democracy by the titleholder. Indeed, sometimes a president for life can proceed to establish a self-proclaimed monarchy, such as Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henry Christophe in Haiti.

Presidential system form of government

A presidential system is a democratic and republican system of government where a head of government leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch. This head of government is in most cases also the head of state, which is called president.

In geopolitics, a political system defines the process for making official government decisions. It is usually compared to the legal system, economic system, cultural system, and other social systems. However, this is a very simplified view of a much more complex system of categories involving the questions of who should have authority and what the government influence on its people and economy should.

Democratization is the transition to a more democratic political regime, including substantive political changes moving in a democratic direction. It may be the transition from an authoritarian regime to a full democracy, a transition from an authoritarian political system to a semi-democracy or transition from a semi-authoritarian political system to a democratic political system.

Juan Carlos Onganía de facto President of Argentina from 29 June 1966 to 8 June 1970

Juan Carlos Onganía Carballo was de facto President of Argentina from 29 June 1966 to 8 June 1970. He rose to power as military dictator after toppling the president Arturo Illia in a coup d'état self-named Revolución Argentina.

A hereditary dictatorship, or family dictatorship, in political science terms a personalistic regime, is a form of dictatorship that occurs in a nominally or formally republican or socialist regime, but operates in practice like an absolute monarchy or despotate, in that political power passes within the dictator's family. Thus, although the key leader is often called president or prime minister rather than a king or emperor, power is transmitted between members of the same family due to the overwhelming authority of the leader. Sometimes the leader has been declared president for life and uses this power to nominate one of his or her family as successor.

Miguel Primo de Rivera Spanish politician; dictator, aristocrat, and military officer who served as Prime Minister of Spain from 1923 to 1930

Miguel Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja, 2nd Marquess of Estella, 22nd Count of Sobremonte was a dictator, aristocrat, and military officer who served as Prime Minister of Spain from 1923 to 1930 during Spain's Restoration era. He deeply believed that it was the politicians who had ruined Spain and that governing without them he could restore the nation. His slogan was "Country, Religion, Monarchy." Historians depict him as an inept dictator who lacked clear ideas and political acumen, and who alienated his potential supporters such as the army. He did not create a base of support among the voters, and depended instead on elite elements. His actions discredited the king and ruined the monarchy, while heightening social tensions that led in 1936 to a full-scale Spanish Civil War.

<i>Caudillo</i> type of personalist leader wielding political power

A caudillo is a type of personalist leader wielding military and political power. There is no precise definition of caudillo, which is often used interchangeably with "dictator" and "strongman". The term is historically associated with Spain, and with Spanish America after virtually all of that region won independence in the early nineteenth century.

A benevolent dictatorship refers to a government in which an authoritarian leader exercises absolute political power over the state but is perceived to do so with regard for benefit of the population as a whole, standing in contrast to the decidedly malevolent stereotype of a dictator. A benevolent dictator may allow for some economic liberalization or democratic decision-making to exist, such as through public referenda or elected representatives with limited power, and often makes preparations for a transition to genuine democracy during or after their term. It might be seen as a republican form of enlightened despotism.

The Metapolitefsi was a period in modern Greek history after the fall of the military junta of 1967–74 that includes the transitional period from the fall of the dictatorship to the 1974 legislative elections and the democratic period immediately after these elections.

A right-wing dictatorship is an authoritarian regime whose policy could be called right-wing. "There are various definitions of the term "rightist", the most common being "conservative" or "reactionary". Those are often to some degree pro-market in economic matters and conservative in social ones. The term fascist dictatorship is sometimes erroneously used interchangeably with right-wing dictatorship. It is commonly accepted that Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy were ruled by fascist governments at some points of their history, but how it refers to other right-wing regimes is a question of further debate. The Estado Novo in Portugal was a right-wing dictatorship which was corporatist in nature. Most South American dictatorships during the second half of the 20th century were right-wing: Pinochet, the Brazilian Military Government, etc. There have also been a number of military dictatorships installed by anti-communists which were generally conservative and rightist.

Civic-military dictatorship of Uruguay 1973-1985 military regime in Uruguay

The civic-military dictatorship of Uruguay (1973–85), also known as the Uruguayan Dictatorship, was an authoritarian military dictatorship that ruled Uruguay for 12 years, from June 27, 1973 until February 28, 1985. The dictatorship has been the subject of much controversy due to its violations of human rights, use of torture, and the unexplained disappearances of many Uruguayans. The term "civic-military" refers to the military regime's initial use of a relatively powerless civilian president as the head of state, which distinguished it from dictatorships in other South American countries in which senior military officers immediately seized power and directly served as head of state.

Metaxism authoritarian nationalist ideology associated with Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas

Metaxism is a totalitarian nationalist ideology associated with Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas. It called for the regeneration of the Greek nation and the establishment of a modern, culturally homogenous Greece. Metaxism disparaged liberalism, and held individual interests to be subordinate to those of the nation, seeking to mobilize the Greek people as a disciplined mass in service to the creation of a "new Greece."

Democracy-Dictatorship Index

Democracy-Dictatorship (DD), index of democracy and dictatorship or simply the DD index or the DD datasets refers to the binary measure of democracy and dictatorship first proposed by Adam Przeworski et al. (2010), and further developed and maintained by Cheibub, Gandhi, and Vreeland (2009). Though the most recent data set is only updated for 2008, there is planning by Cheibeb to update it to the present year.

Barbara Geddes is an American political scientist. One of the main important theorists of authoritarianism and empirical catalogers of authoritarian regimes, she is currently a full professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles.