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A benevolent dictatorship is a theoretical form of government in which an authoritarian leader exercises absolute political power over the state but does so for the benefit of the population as a whole. 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. It might be seen as a republican form of enlightened despotism.
The label has been applied to leaders such as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Turkey), Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslavia), Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore), Abdullah II of Jordan, Paul Kagame (Rwanda), and Qaboos bin Said al Said (Oman).
In the Spanish language, the pun word dictablanda is sometimes used for a dictatorship conserving some of the liberties and mechanisms of democracy. The pun is that, in Spanish, dictadura is "dictatorship", dura is "hard" and blanda is "soft". Analogously, the same pun is made in Portuguese as ditabranda or ditamole. In February 2009, the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S.Paulo ran an editorial classifying the military dictatorship in Brazil (1964–1985) as a "ditabranda", creating controversy.
Although Tito led the former republic of Yugoslavia as Prime Minister and President (later President for Life) from 1944 until his death in 1980 under what some criticized as an authoritarian rule, he was widely popular and was "seen by most as a benevolent dictator".
Despite ruling over a monarchy, King Abdullah is often seen as a reformist and progressive leader whom is seen to many as a 'benevolent' monarch. As one of only two Arab nations that recognize Israel, his regime has been at the cornerstone of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is credited with removing foreign influence from former Ottoman territory, and is looked fondly upon as 'the father' of modern Turkey. He passed a series of societal reforms such as allowing women to vote, removing Islam as the state religion, and adoption of a Western criminal code.
Known to be the man who transformed Singapore from a poor agrarian society into one of Asia's wealthiest nations, he is often called a 'benevolent dictator.' As a leader who was in power for thirty-one years, he implemented some laws that were deemed to be autocratic, and attempted to dismantle political opposition. Despite this, he is often looked upon favorably for his transformation of Singapore, and is considered by many to be one of the most successful political pragmatists.
A key ally for many Western governments, the Sultan of Oman is often seen as a benevolent dictator. Under his long-running leadership, the country has modernized and has experienced an increasing quality of life.
- Enlightened absolutism
- Philosopher king
- Separation of powers
- Soft despotism
- Benevolent dictator for life, for the related concept in free and open source software
- "Benevolent Dictator? Thinking About MK Atatürk". Turkey File. October 19, 2009.
- Shapiro, Susan; Shapiro, Ronald (2004). The Curtain Rises: Oral Histories of the Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-1672-6.
"...All Yugoslavs had educational opportunities, jobs, food, and housing regardless of nationality. Tito, seen by most as a benevolent dictator, brought peaceful co-existence to the Balkan region, a region historically synonymous with factionalism."
- Miller, Matt (2012-05-02). "What Singapore can teach us". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- Kifah and Jennifer (March 23, 2013). "King Abdullah II of Jordan, World Statesman?".
- Ribeiro, Igor (February 25, 2009). "A "ditabranda" da Folha" (in Portuguese). Portal Imprensa.
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- Andjelic, Neven (2003). Bosnia-Herzegovina: The End of a Legacy. Frank Cass. p. 36. ISBN 0-7146-5485-X.
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- Elsa Kania (February 4, 2012). "King Abdullah II of Jordan: Modern Monarch and Would-Be Peacemaker?". Harvard Political Review.
- LU'AYY AL-RIMAWI (April 24, 2013). "King Abdullah II: A true partner for peace". The Jerusalem Post.
- Eric Watson (March 27, 2015). "Lee Kuan Yew & The Curious Legacies of "Benevolent Dictators"". The Policy Wire.
- "Mustafa Kemal Atatürk". www.columbia.edu.
- BOO SU-LYN. "Obituary: Lee Kuan Yew, the benevolent dictator". Malay Mail Online.
- Carlton Tan (March 23, 2015). "Lee Kuan Yew leaves a legacy of authoritarian pragmatism". The Guardian.
- Peter Popham (March 23, 2015). "Lee Kuan Yew: An entirely exceptional leader who balanced authoritarianism with pragmatism". The Independent.
- Rowland White (June 15, 2011). "Oman's benevolent autocrat may avoid a similar fate to Libya's Gaddaf". The Guardian.
- "After the sultan". The Economist. December 6, 2014.