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How do dictators gain and maintain their power?

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Quick Answer

According to HowStuffWorks, dictators usually come into power during coups d'etats, revolutions or states of emergency. Once in power, dictators use their influence to impose regimes that are often violent and long-lasting.

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Dictators have absolute power over their state and usually do not come to power through free constitutional elections. Once in power, dictators typically do not call themselves dictators but instead choose to refer to themselves as presidents, prime ministers, chancellors or monarchs. Some of the most well-known dictators in history include Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il and Adolf Hitler. One thing all these dictators have in common is that they were able to maintain political power by using violence and propaganda. Dictators often manufacture an external threat in order to gain control over the state and appear as the people's only salvation. For example, Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany's problems and justified his actions during the Holocaust by using propaganda aimed at vilifying the Jews. Dictators also use their leadership skills to persuade the masses to believe their agendas. They use censorship to control the flow of information so as to maintain power. Dictators who remain in power usually do so until they are killed or removed through violent opposition.

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