10 Characteristics of the Dictatorship

Dictatorships are models of government in which all power resides in an individual or an elite. Because they are regimes of force, the form of the dictatorship is likely to be applied within the framework of any political trend, so that there have been dictatorships of the right and dictatorships of the left. Thus, all dictatorships share some features of totalitarian regimes. To understand it better, let us know the main characteristics of dictatorships.

facto government

Characteristics of the dictatorship

Dictatorships are de facto governments, that is, governments are not recognized in the legal framework of a given State and, therefore, do not enjoy political legitimacy. This can happen in two ways:

  1. As a consequence of a coup d’état;
  2. Due to the illegal occupation of the government, whether in the face of a power vacuum or as resistance to the abandonment of power.

What has been said implies that a democratically elected leader can become a dictator if, once the term has come to an end, he refuses to call free elections and/or hand over power to his successor.

Absence of separation of powers

The separation of powers is suppressed during dictatorial regimes, either under its open elimination or under the totalitarian control of all its instances.

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Concentration of power in an elite

Since there is no separation of powers in dictatorships, power is totally concentrated in the dictator and a privileged elite that hovers under his leadership.


Decisions in dictatorships are made arbitrarily, openly ignoring the legal framework and the principle of separation of powers. The dictator or the ruling elite act against the law or dictate accommodative laws in order to perpetuate themselves in power.

Suspension of the rule of law


Tribute to those who disappeared during the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

From all this it follows that in dictatorships there is no rule of law, that is, respect for the principle that all subjects of the nation, including the ruling elite, are equal before the law and must respond to it. Therefore, to sustain themselves over time, dictatorships suspend all kinds of constitutional guarantees, whether declared or not.

Suppression of elections or manipulation of them

The dictator and his elite attribute to themselves the ability to interpret the needs of the people or simply act outside it. In this sense, elections are suppressed or, depending on the ideological model, manipulated to guarantee a single result. This is the case of the countries in which the government of the day freely controls the electoral council.

See also Characteristics of Communism.

Media control and censorship


In dictatorial regimes, the government exercises control and censorship of the media, which implies the suppression of freedom of opinion and freedom of the press.

Outlawing of political parties

In dictatorships, political parties are seen as threats, since they are forms of popular organization and representation. Therefore, the parties are usually outlawed and live underground. In hybrid regimes, the parties are not outlawed but they are persecuted and intimidated.

See also Characteristics of fascism.

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Opposition crackdown


In order to stay in power, dictatorships persecute all forms of opposition, and perceive any criticism as a threat to their continuity. Therefore, in dictatorships, political persecution, torture and the disappearance of citizens are practiced at the hands of the political police.

Indeterminate duration of the government in power

Dictatorial regimes have an indefinite duration. That is to say, they are not conceived to give way to a new political generation, but rather they resist in the exercise of power for as long as possible. For this reason, dictatorships must often be overthrown through armed revolution. There have been cases in history, however, in which dictatorships have come out “peacefully”, but they have always been pressured by the military sector. For example, the Carnation Revolution in Portugal.