5 Dictatorships to Watch in 2013


1) Mohammed Morsi

After winning Egypt’s first election since the deposition of former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohammed Morsi became the country’s new power holders. However, Morsi’s appetite for power nearly transformed him into Mubarak 2.0, when he tried to modify the proposed constitution to give himself sweeping executive powers. Mass protests thwarted that change, but the continuing instability and the sensitive political faculty of the Egyptian public may yet mean another power change in 2013.

2) Bashar al-Assad

Syria’s embattled president has been fighting rebels, Islamists and other rag-tag groups for nearly 2 years, and the war has ground to an effective stalemate. With UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi saying that the pitched battle could go on for years, the solution will in all likelihood be political, not military. Either way, Assad will likely participate in a power-sharing deal for an interim period, before a round of elections see him with a largely diminished political role, or exiled from Damascus altogether.

3) John Boehner

The Republican speaker of the House is at the center of fiscal cliff negotiations, but his choice to follow the party line over common sense has earned him a place in this list of dictators. While Obama is largely a spectator as the inertia of decades of laissez-faire economics crashes around him, Boehner has steadfastly opposed nearly everything the White House has brought to the table in possible options. This inability to negotiate gives him the uncanny characteristics of a petty dictator toying with America's very future, as well as a ticket for possible replacement in 2013, should we head south over the cliff.

4) King Abdullah

Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarch largely watched as the political upheavals happened around his country, and the immense wealth at his government's disposal means that civil society has a very affordable price (like a national record for the largest budget ever). While it is unlikely that anything will happen to the monarchy in 2013, next year can begin to see changes in the way politics are done, so as to favour a gradual opening and slightly more rights: for example, women might go from inanimate to animate object status.

5) Alexander Lukashenko

Europe’s last dictator has been in power since 1994, and in true Communist style, won every subsequent election with 110% support; according to him, if it looks and quacks like a duck, it is still not a duck. Despite this, Belarus remains a more sophisticated state than most dictatorial regimes, and a power change won’t result in complete state collapse. It will be a negotiated transfer of power, much like it happened in the rest of Eastern Europe 20-odd years ago, and also without much of the socio-economic decline that defined the region in the 1990s. As part of a new customs union between itself, Russia and Kazakhstan, there won’t likely be any sketchy insurgencies surrounding Minsk – rather, when Lukashenko gets too frail for power, things will be handled in a much more civilized way. Keeping in mind all of the above, he is the least likely in this list to be changed in 2013.