from Asia Unbound

The Season of the Strongman?

May 09, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump leads a rally marking his first 100 days in office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on April 29, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
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Elections and Voting

Heads of State and Government

Over the past six months, global attention has focused almost exclusively on a handful of controversial leaders, in major Western countries, who run (and win) offices through democratic means, but often want to wield power like dictators. Donald Trump, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and France’s Marine Le Pen—“strongmen”, in the old-fashioned term—have dominated news cycle after news cycle. Erdogan used a dubious referendum, earlier this year, to neuter Turkey’s remaining political institutions and position himself as a twenty-first century sultan. Le Pen rode a wave of French anger to the second round of the presidential election, and by far the best result for a far-right party in modern French history. And Trump not only won the U.S. presidential election but, in but a few months, has remade the Republican Party and drastically reshaped many Americans’ views on issues ranging from trade to U.S. foreign policy.

But this focus on the three strongmen has obscured an important global phenomenon. Similar types of leaders, almost like mini-Trumps, are popping up around the world, and many will be running for high office this year and next.

For more of my take on the rise of the “strongman,” and how 2017 and 2018 could be make or break years for strongman politics, read my new Bloomberg article.

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