Will hindsight be 20/20 in 2020?
November 16, 2016 7:11 PM   Subscribe

Are there examples from history (ideally in modern or at least post-1776 times) of an authoritarian leader coming to power, and then being peacefully voted out of power during the next election?

I admit that this might be a stretch, because so many fascists and tyrants have seized power illegally or suspended elections to hold onto it. Also, I realize that many modern democracies don't have any particular timeframe for elections, so there might not be a lot of countries that apply in general.

But if Trump truly is the fascist that he seems to be, what's the upshot of getting rid of him peacefully, legally, and soonish? I want to believe that he will cause a lot of immediate terrible problems and then lose the 2020 election. But even contentious and often despised presidents like Bush and Nixon were re-elected. I'd also like to believe that, surely, by 2024, the pendulum will swing again the way it did from Clinton to Bush to Obama. But I don't know if we have that much time.
posted by Sara C. to Law & Government (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is a difficult question to answer because terms like authoritarian (to say nothing of more charged words like fascist and tyrant) are slippery, particularly if applied before the candidate has even taken office. Am I right to assume you mean leaders like Hungary's Viktor Orban or Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan? In that case populist or nationalist might be better reference terms.

We all know names like Stalin and Hitler and Peron because they failed to peacefully surrender power, and of course what they used their power to do. There are lots of examples of populist/nationalist leaders who have left peacefully but you they aren't household names because peaceful transitions of power are B-O-R-I-N-G in a man-bites-dog sense.

((Obviously I have to caveat that each country has it's own political system, culture, etc so each of these examples could be challenged in multiple ways, and some of these leaders served more than a single term, but)) without further ado: Argentina's Carlos Menem, Mexico's Lazaro Cardenas, Albania's Sali Berisha, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, Peru's Ollanta Humala.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 5:40 AM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

In America, you might look to big city leadership for examples. Frank Rizzo in Philadelphia comes to mind. I'm not sure if he was a fascist (though he did famously compare himself to Attila the Hun), but he was an extreme law-and-order type. He was succeeded by the fairly liberal Bill Green, who in turn was succeeded by the city's first African-American mayor, Wilson Goode.
posted by sixpack at 8:22 AM on November 17, 2016

(While in office, Rizzo forced a vote to change the city charter, to abolish mayoral term limits. He lost by a two-to-one margin).
posted by sixpack at 8:27 AM on November 17, 2016

Response by poster: BusyBusyBusy, thanks, that's exactly what I was looking for. The existence of people like Erdogan in office right now terrifies me, because well, who can say whether they will relinquish power willingly or not? And with Berlusconi, yes, he's not in power anymore, and the eventual transition was peaceful, but he is also the longest serving post-WW2 prime minister Italy has had.

For what it's worth, I didn't intend this question to be inflammatory or hyperbolic, I was literally actually for real wondering if there is an answer. And you provided that answer. So thanks!
posted by Sara C. at 10:46 AM on November 17, 2016

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