Dictators justify their seizure of power by declaring a need for change; examples include:

“endemic popular discontent, chronic political instability and repeated military coups, only brought to an end by the accession to power of Saddam Hussein in 1979”.

  • Some coups d’état are justified by economic dissatisfaction and claims that the current incumbent is performing badly. For example, an LSE paper, Guarding the State or Protecting the Economy?: The Economic Factors of Pakistan’s Military Coups, concluded that there was a correlation between low economic growth rates and the incidence of military coups in Pakistan in 1958, 1965, 1977 and 1999.
  • Nationalist struggles, like those which expelled the colonial powers in Africa, are waged in the name of freedom.

Max Weber, in paragraph 9 of his lecture Politics as a Vocation, referred to “‘charismatic’ domination” by a dictator whose legitimacy is granted by virtue of people’s respect for the leader and enthusiasm for the cause – though a new government then has to install institutions to become a relatively stable one-party State as described previously (  Continued legitimacy depends upon being seen to govern in the interests of the people.

It is difficult for a dictatorship to achieve a smooth handover of power at the end of the leader’s term of office.  A coup d’état has been the solution in many cases, but that can lead to violence.  The best hope is for a peaceful transition to an elected presidency.



This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6313a.htm