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    Authoritarian rulers: Putin’s like-minded strangers


    No authoritarian ruler is as well known as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. But he is not the only one who stifles all opposition and criticism. Other men do the same.

    The most important things at a glance

    They have their critics persecuted, opposition politicians imprisoned or even killed: Dictators and autocrats rule in many countries around the world. Less than half of the world’s population lives in a democracy, according to the British analysis institute Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for the year 2021.

    Hun Sen from Cambodia: “I’ll kill them”

    Samdech Hun Sen rules Cambodia and, with 38 years in office, is considered one of the longest-serving rulers in the world. Hun Sen has been suppressing freedom of expression in the Southeast Asian country since 1985 and has been holding on to power with all his might. “I’m not just weakening the opposition, I’m killing them,” Hun Sen once said. “And if any think they are strong enough to hold demonstrations, I will beat the dogs and lock them in cages.”

    The case of Kem Sokha shows that Hun Sen takes these threats seriously: the opposition leader was sentenced to 27 years of house arrest at the beginning of the year, and he is also never allowed to run for political office again. Human rights activists accuse Hun Sen of having eliminated his competitor for political reasons.

    If the dictator has his way, only one person can succeed him: his son Hun Manet, the commander-in-chief of the army. Hun Sen has been preparing him for years to take over as his successor. “As his father,” the dictator declared back in June 2020, “I have to support my son and train him to be capable.” In Cambodia, Hun Manet is expected to take office after elections scheduled for July.

    “Fear reigns in Equatorial Guinea”

    Teodoro Obiang is the oldest ruler in the world. With more than 44 years in office, the 81-year-old has been governing Equatorial Guinea for more than half his life. After he removed his equally brutally ruling uncle Francisco Macías Nguema from office in a military coup in 1979 and had him executed, Obiang always got over 90 percent of the votes in supposedly free elections. Even before that, his re-election in the African country was considered certain.

    Although Obiang is considered a little milder than his uncle, he enforces his rule with all brutality. There is almost no freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Opposition members, journalists and human rights activists are being persecuted by Obiang. “Fear rules in Equatorial Guinea, so they will vote for him. And wait for his death,” Ana Lúcia Sá, political scientist for African studies at the University of Lisbon, told DW.

    Obiang also has the resource-rich country firmly under control economically: together with his son and future successor Teodorín Obiang, he divides the income from the country’s lucrative oil, gas and timber business between himself and his closest confidants. While the majority of the country’s almost 1.5 million people don’t even have two dollars a day to survive, they are considered the richest people in Africa with their luxury cars, private jets and Parisian real estate.

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