Dictatorship

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Types of government

The term dictatorship is usually used to describe an autocratic form of government in which most executive - and possibly legislative - power is vested in the dictator, who acts as the de facto leader of the government even if their de jure role is different. Historically, the office of dictator was established in the Roman Republic by the Senate and Consuls during a state of emergency. The Roman Dictator held arbitrary and executive powers to address ongoing issues causing the state of emergency, although they were not above the laws of the Republic. In modern times, the term dictator is usually applied to figures such as Adolf Hitler (Nazism) or Benito Mussolini, (Fascism) who held absolute power over their nations and were effectively the only real political leaders.

Although a dictator holds absolute or near-absolute power, dictatorships themselves are not necesserily authoritarian in the modern sense of the word. "Benevolent dictatorships" are those in which the dictator is generally regarded to act relatively benevolently, usually allowing freedom of speech, religion, thought and demonstration. Englightened absolutist states are good examples of historical benevolent dictatorships.

It can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between dictatorships and absolute monarchies, especially if the dictator succeeds family members in a hereditary fashion, as in North Korea. The easiest way to distinguish the two is that in a monarchy sovereignty legally lies with the monarch, whereas in a dictatorship sovereignty usually de jure (although not de facto) lies with the people.