Fights for power during government transition

Lily Lin 01/21/2019

In an article “Ethiopia’s prime minister: The man who tried to make dictatorship acceptable”, published on The Economist, the author reported on the death of Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s prime minister, and the tricky transition dilemma he left his country. Under his authoritarian government, Ethiopia worked closely with the US and effectively used Western aid to achieve economic boost. Meles had a huge win in his last election, since most of the diversity in the parliament is a “sham”, and he ensured all his opponents are either in jail, or exiled. The author later discussed the possible turnout for this transition of power. (1)

In a New York Times article, published last February, “Goodbye Castros, Hello Communist Party”, author Corrales and Loxton discussed the upcoming election in Cuba, in which for the first time in six decades, the successor was expected to be someone outside of the Castro family. While some people see this transition as a step towards Democracy, most interpret it still as a one-party rule with no improvement to freedom. Furthermore, the Castro family will not completely step down from the stage, with Mr. Castro still the head of the party and controls the military, which controls the economy, it is unlikely that a more democratic Cuba will be the result of this election. (2)

How can one party retain power for a long period of time with peaceful transition of power in an authoritarian regime?

Although one-party rule seems like a stable government without competition, the “election” inside the party or family is also brutal and often not known by the public. A lot of authoritarian regimes does hold election but corruption and participation rate varied in different countries. In order to start democratization, the transition between powers is a crucial point to observe and take action. The process of democratization might not require force or movement, if the incumbent government is willing to change within.


(1) “Ethiopia’s prime minister: The man who tried to make dictatorship acceptable”. The Economist (08/25/2012).

(2) Javier Corrales and James Loxton. “Goodbye Castros, Hello Communist Party”. New York Times (02/26/2018).

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