10 characteristics of the dictatorship

Dictatorships are models of government in which all power resides in an individual or an elite. Because they are regimes of force, the form of dictatorship is likely to be applied within the framework of any political tendency, so that there have been right-wing dictatorships and left-wing dictatorships. Thus, all dictatorships share some features of totalitarian regimes. To understand it better, let’s get to know the main characteristics of dictatorships.

facto government

Dictatorships are de facto governments, that is, governments are not recognized in the legal framework of a certain State and, therefore, do not enjoy political legitimacy. This can occur in two ways:

  • As a consequence of a coup;
  • Due to illegal occupation by the government, whether in the face of a power vacuum or as resistance to the abandonment of power.
  • What has been said implies that a democratically elected leader can become a dictator if, once the term has come to an end, he resists calling free elections and/or handing over power to his successor.

    Absence of separation of powers

    The separation of powers is abolished during dictatorial regimes, either under its open elimination or under the totalitarian control of all its instances.

    Concentration of power in an elite

    Since there is no separation of powers in dictatorships, power is totally concentrated in the dictator and a privileged elite that hovers under his leadership.


    Decisions in dictatorships are made arbitrarily, openly ignoring the legal framework and the principle of separation of powers. The dictator or the ruling elite act with their backs to the law or enact accommodative laws in order to perpetuate themselves in power.

    Suspension of the rule of law

    Tribute to those who disappeared during the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

    From all this it can be deduced that in dictatorships there is no rule of law, that is, respect for the principle that all subjects of the nation, including the ruling elite, are equal before the law and must answer to it. Therefore, to sustain themselves over time, dictatorships suspend all kinds of constitutional guarantees, whether declared or not.

    Suppression of elections or manipulation of them

    The dictator and his elite attribute to themselves the ability to interpret the needs of the people or simply act outside of it. In this sense, the elections are suppressed or, depending on the ideological model, they are manipulated to guarantee a single result. This is the case of countries in which the government of the day controls the electoral council at ease.

    See also Characteristics of Communism.

    Media control and censorship

    In dictatorial regimes, the government exercises control and censorship of the media, which implies the suppression of freedom of opinion and freedom of the press.

    Illegalization of political parties

    In dictatorships, political parties are seen as threats, since they are forms of popular organization and representation. Therefore, parties are often outlawed and live in secrecy. In hybrid regimes, the parties are not outlawed but they are persecuted and intimidated.

    See also Characteristics of fascism.

    Repression of the opposition

    In order to stay in power, dictatorships pursue all forms of opposition, and perceive all criticism as a threat to their continuity. Therefore, in dictatorships, political persecution, torture, and the disappearance of citizens in the hands of the political police are practiced.

    Indefinite duration of the government in power

    Dictatorial regimes have an indefinite duration. That is to say, they are not conceived to give way to a new political generation, but rather they resist in the exercise of power for as long as possible. For this reason, dictatorships must often be overthrown through armed revolution. There have been cases in history, however, in which dictatorships have come out “peacefully”, but they have always been pressured by the military sector. For example, the Carnation Revolution in Portugal.

    How to cite: Imaginary, Andrea (05/23/2019). “10 characteristics of the dictatorship”. In: letsupnow.com. : Consulted:

    University professor, singer, Bachelor of Arts (Cultural Promotion mention), with a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature from the Central University of Venezuela, and a doctoral student in History at the Autonomous University of Lisbon.

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