Traditional authoritarian strongman

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Traditional authoritarian strongmen who appeal to national traditions and rule through party machines are often leaders of states with weak democratic traditions and poor economic prospects. They provide a bulwark against both liberal advocates of capitalist progress and socialist advocates of radical freedom and democracy. Miklós Horthy Wp→, regent of Hungary, following restoration of the Kingdom of Hungary after brief experiments with democracy and socialism by the Hungarian People's Republic and the Hungarian Republic following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I is a typical historical example, as is Vladimir Putin of Russia. They typically follow democratic forms and are not dictators but impose order in situations where a nation feels threatened by disorder and unrest.

Traditional authoritarian strongmen are a transition form between monarchy and democracy, offering a retreat position for both traditional ruling interests and frightened middle class forces. In terms of authoritarianism they exist in a continuum ranging from mild democratically-elected rulers such as George W. Bush to totalitarian rulers of the first order. They typically arise in states that are threatened by the spectre of rapid political change, Napoleon being the archetypical example. Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, and numerous Latin American dictators being other common examples.

In Hungary, as in most states of Eastern Europe, a populist nationalist strongman, Viktor Orbán, rules without effective opposition; the nation holds its own but without progress.[1]

Political party

Supporters of a strongman form a political party such as United Russia centered on the leader rather than on political constituencies. The result is a lack of inner-party activity and leadership; thus, when the leader is deposed or dies, a succession crisis usually occurs. In Spain, this was nicely handled with both a king and a parliament designated as successors to the fascist regime.


Centralizing the media and bringing it under state control is an element in maintaining control. Much depends on self-censorship engaged in in order to maintain favor.

Notes and references

  1. "Eastern European autocrats pose new test for democracy: From Hungary's Orbán and Czech Republic's Zeman to Erdoğan in Turkey, a new breed of democratic strongman is emerging" analysis by Ian Traynor in The Guardian 13 August 2013