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TOPIC: autocracy

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Tyrant's Solitude: How Dictators Lose Touch With Reality

The fundamentally irrational decision to invade Ukraine was the final proof that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been living in a world of illusions. He may be best understood by retracing the steps of history's other tyrants, and gauging how their stories ended.

-Analysis-

KYIVFeb. 21, 2022. This wasn't just the day when Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine became inevitable. This was also the day that two critical parts of Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime were made clear: his unconditional dominance even over his closest, highest-ranking associates, and his complete immersion in the world of his illusions, where even his associates are forbidden to enter.

When both of these features lined up, the result was his suicidal decision to attack Ukraine.

Tyrants and despots style themselves as the most knowledgeable among mortals. Supposedly, they have access to detailed reports from the omnipresent, omnipotent special services, who never miss anything. That is why the despot seems to know everything better than the average person. There is no need to ask the people anything: the giraffe is tall — it sees further.

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This could not be further from the truth.

In fact, each person has their own worldview. The more authoritarian a person is, the stronger the conviction that their view is correct; the higher the person, the more they are inclined to believe that they are doing everything right.

Having risen to the heights of power, the dictator falls into a vicious circle.

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The Shah's Son Paradox: Why Iran Needs Its Exiled Crown Prince To Achieve Democracy

Iran's exiled and surprisingly popular crown prince Reza Pahlavi can help unite opponents against the country's brutal regime. But he can only do that by reaffirming his royal status, rather than responding on calls to renounce his title.

-OpEd-

As a sociologist, I have one thing in common with Iran's former crown prince and exiled heir apparent, Reza Pahlavi. We both support a republic in Iran, while understanding the utility in present conditions, of restoring the constitutional regime that ended with the 1979 Iranian Revolution that overthrew the monarchy and installed a theocratic regime.

It's an inexplicable contradiction though in my case, it's merely a personal conundrum. Not so with the prince: for he must bear a burden of responsibilities born of the hopes and expectations of numerous Iranians, especially those inside Iran who have been protesting against the ayatollahs — and often chanting support for the Pahlavis — at great personal risk to themselves.

Every time he speaks in the media or responds to calls to become the nation's representative, he prompts criticisms, indignation and controversy. Opponents of the monarchy are worried that anything enhancing the prince's public profile will also strengthen the prospects of a restoration. They want him to formally renounce his succession rights and distance himself from the monarchy he would, in other conditions, have inherited from his father, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

The prince seems to be doing this distancing, stating his support for a republic with increasing clarity, and even renouncing use of the title of prince.

He recently told the BBC on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference that he personally favored a republic in Iran, for its meritocratic nature. As he sees debates around a monarchy or republic as a source of discord among all those who want a democracy in Iran, he has sought to proceed in public as a civil and political activist, alongside other exiled opponents. This of course has prompted the ire of royalists, who do not see such postures as impartial or fair.

I personally believe the prince's bid to work as a "simple" activist, at this juncture, is neither practical nor beneficial to Iran's mass opposition movement.

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America, Defender Of Democracy? Why The World (Still) Isn't Buying It

The West must address the degradation of democracy domestically, and worldwide. It's on the right side in the war in Ukraine. And in China. But what doesn’t ring true is President Biden’s flaunting the democratic cause as a foreign policy stick.

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — Democracies are in poor shape, and one discerns not just a deterioration of democratic regimes, but a more blatant process of regression. The so-called Third Wave of democratization, which the author Samuel Huntington observed as lasting from 1974 into the 1990s, has slid backward over the past decade.

We are even seeing a "counter-wave" in so-called advanced democracies. According to Bastian Herre, an analyst and researcher, figures show a double decline in liberal democratic systems and electoral democracies, complementing a double rise in electoral autocracies and "plain" dictatorships, which dispense with the theater of elections.

The trend has two main aspects: One is an internal shrinking of democracy taking place, in contrast with the mid-20th century, without abrupt events like an invasion or a coup. The other is that, again unlike the Cold War period, there is no yearning for a revolutionary alternative, as the Soviet Union has ceased to exist.

The United States' current chief rival in the world, communist China, is not exporting its institutional model.

So the question is: will President Joseph Biden's China strategy, which effectively presents itself as a fight between democracy and autocracy, contribute to reviving, expanding and bettering democracy worldwide?

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Jair Bolsonaro, A Perfect Example Of Why Autocrats Hate Women

Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Jair Bolsonaro all share what seems a natural antipathy toward women — yet it is ultimately because they fear them. And with good reason: When women participate in political movements, they are more likely to succeed — which is bad news for authoritarianism.

-Analysis-

SÂO PAULO — In the first televised debate between the candidates for the Brazilian presidential elections, on August 28, the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro offered yet another demonstration of his misogyny. He was asked by journalist Vera Magalhães about the drop in vaccination coverage in the country and its connection to the misinformation about vaccines, which the president himself spread during the pandemic.

“Vera, I couldn’t expect anything else from you," he responded. "You sleep thinking about me, have some kind of passion for me. You can't take sides in a debate like this. You make lying accusations about me. You’re an embarrassment to Brazilian journalism.”

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Future
Laura-Maï Gaveriaux

The Mirage Of Egypt’s New Capital City

In an area the size of Singapore, Egypt is building its new capital. Constructed under the close control of the military and the head of state, the city embodies the grand ambitions of an increasingly autocratic president. But will it turn out to be a ghost city?

CAIRO — The concrete structure rises to a height of 1,263 feet (385 meters) on the edge of an expressway, where asphalt, as soon as it is laid down, lets out acrid fumes. With its double collar that licks the sky, the Iconic Tower is already the tallest building in Africa. It is also the flagship of this vast assembly of open-air construction sites over 450 square miles, an area the size of Singapore, which will be the location of the new Egyptian capital.

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Ideas
Héctor Abad Faciolince

Russia's Prime Export Under Putin: Chaos

Russia's president is neither clearly right-wing nor left-wing. As his dubious allies around the world suggest, he simply hates Western liberal democracy and seeks to expand his personal power, at home and abroad, by sowing unrest and conflict.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — A glance at Vladimir Putin's friends around the world gives us a clear idea of the Russian president's preferences: It is not about a penchant for the left (as you might think, given his friendship with supposedly leftist governments) or the right (and he does have allies on the right).

His real inclination is for governments that despise liberal democracy, or at least democracy as conceived in the European Union, United States, Australia or Japan.

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Turkey
Ahmet Ä°nsel

Turkey's Failed Coup, A Boon To Erdogan Autocratic Desires

ISTANBUL — Turkish society was on the verge of a major disaster last Friday. If the attempted coup d'etat had achieved its purpose, we would probably already be facing a large-scale civil war today. During the coup attempt, which lasted about 12 hours, we lived through a miniature version of this civil war with all its horrors: pro-coup soldiers clashed violently with the police, military officers opened fire on civilians, angry demonstrators lynched surrendered soldiers, military aircraft and helicopters bombed the parliament and other government buildings.

The high cost of human lives of this horrible night would only be a small fraction if the coup had succeeded, because its leaders would have terrorized the country in order to take control — and they would have realized that the only way to intimidate would be through massive slaughter.

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