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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 is seen to do so for the benefit of the population as a whole. A benevolent dictator may allow for some democratic decision-making to exist, such as through public referenda or elected representatives with limited power.
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.
Josip Broz Tito
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".
King Abdullah II of Jordan
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
Known affectionaly as 'Ataturk' by many, 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.
Lee Kuan Yew
Known to be the man who transformed Singapore from a poor agrarian society into one of Asia's wealthiest nations, 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 one of the most successful political pragmatists.
Qaboos bin Said al Said
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.
Leading the country since the end of the Rwandan Genocide, he has been credited with the recovery and reformation of Rwanda. The country is known to be relatively free from corruption, stable, and safe, particulary when compared to its unstable neighbors. Despite successes in a variety of areas, his regime has been criticized for crackdowns on media freedom, fraudulent elections, and discrimination against the Hutu majority.
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Alexander Lukashenko is the current president of Belarus. His rule may be described as authoritarian; nevertheless, under his rule, corruption in Belarus has virtually disappeared. Belarus has a low income gap, and enjoys one of the highest HDIs in the former Soviet Union.
- Benevolent Dictator for Life, for the related concept in free and open source software
- Enlightened absolutism
- Philosopher king
- 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.
- Ribeiro, Igor (February 25, 2009). "A "ditabranda" da Folha" (in Portuguese). Portal Imprensa.
- Cohen, Bertram D.; Ettin, Mark F.; Fidler, Jay W. (2002). Group Psychotherapy and Political Reality: A Two-Way Mirror. International Universities Press. p. 193. ISBN 0-8236-2228-2.
- Andjelic, Neven (2003). Bosnia-Herzegovina: The End of a Legacy. Frank Cass. p. 36. ISBN 0-7146-5485-X.
- Tierney, Stephen (2000). Accommodating National Identity: New Approaches in International and Domestic Law. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 17. ISBN 90-411-1400-9.