about 2 years ago
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By Ruma Dubey

There is a new autocrat, very powerful and means business and he joins the very elite club of autocrats whose members are leaders of Russia, Saudi, Turkey’s Erdogan, Viktor Orban of Hungary. Zambia’s Mugabe was shown the door out just recently. Philippines Duterte vociferously refutes his membership in this club. Modi and Japan’s premier, Abe – they belong but in a covert way – they are truly leading a one-man Govt but in a democratic way.

Xi Jinping, the President of China has just got the constitution amended, making way for his term as the leader for as long as he wishes, which could be his entire life time.

The 3000-members to the National People’s Congress cast their vote, or should we say, stamped the rubber stamp to a series of constitutional amendment which included removing the restriction that had limited the presidency to two consecutive five-year terms.

Xi was as such looked upon as an Emperor what with his absolute power and now with this indefinite term, he has taken China back to the days of Mao Zedong. Henceforth he will accumulate further power, ensuring there are “yes” men in all the important positions, knocking down any little sense of dissent if there ever was.

So what is with this sense of wanting absolute power? More and more leaders around the world, including the ruling Govt in our country, want to become the one-point, all powerful nuclei. From a time when the Govt was above the party and the party was above personality, we are hurtling more and more towards one-leader, one party kind of situation. Many say this bodes well for continuity and getting the country on the road to progress but is that so? By quelling all voices of dissent and opposition, having key “yes” men in all the strategic, decision making departments, aren’t we on very thin ice?

Even the way in which Trump is going today, is more autocratic – it is my way or the highway. So what if key personnel are resigning as long as he is saying and doing what a section of the population wants?

Yes, the nationalist strongman style of leadership is the “in” thing. This style is more about running the country like a business, thwarting everyone and everything that comes in the way. The common denominator of all these members of the Autocratic club, including the “covert” members is that they believe they can resolve any international issue on a man-to-man basis and rely lesser and lesser on institutions within. These strongmen are nothing like the Stalin or the Fascist German of yesteryears; these modern day autocrats demolish democratic systems like political competition, rule of law, public debate and shut down access to open information. Judicial independence is impinged and civil liberties are withdrawn. They all use the power of technology to the hilt; using their fingertips to take their propaganda through the digital world – monitoring, censorship and disinformation all is so easy to maneuver today.

Another major trait of these personalist leaders is there is no constraint on their decision making abilities and are never held accountable for policies, even if they have negative outcomes. They appoint their close aids, cronies, loyalists and friends to important offices – all share one significant character – unflinching loyalty to the leader.

Is this the way in which the world will be ruled in the years to come? Going by the need for all to have a one-man leader rather than a Govt, looks like we all have forgotten past history lessons and are now creating a new chapter, with a new, albeit more dangerous, form of leadership.

Surely the motto and vision of this Autocrat Club will be – Power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely!

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