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Background
The country in my story lost a huge war and the country is now in ruins. The previous government is in exile. Since the war ended there have been 11 presidents in the space of 6 years. No president lasted more than a couple of months. In the country, there are 13 founding families and they are now struggling to keep the country from falling apart.
Society
The world has all of today's technology except social media. However, people act as they did in the late 1800s early 1900s. The country has a lot of problems now but before the war was one of the most powerful and most respected countries.

How can a dictator in that country seize power and keep his position?

Note: The founding families controlled the presidents until after the war. They still have all the power and wealth but they have been blamed for the lose of the war. Right now the dictator is slowly gaining power. He has one elected inspector general (member of parliament) (16 inspector general's in total) he has the support of the heir of one of the founding families and has the support of young people.

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  • $\begingroup$ What kind of governement is this? They have a president which suggest a democracy but they are based on founding families as well. Are these families fighthing to regain control? $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Apr 22, 2018 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding.SE! When you have a moment, please take our tour and review our help center pages. This question needs considerable additional detail to help us answer it. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 22, 2018 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ Philip, these comment sections can get very long and it's difficult to find clarifications and additions by hunting through them. If you look below the tags you'll see links, including and "edit" link. Please click that and add your clarifications and additions directly to the question. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 22, 2018 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ With something like 2000 years of recorded human history to work with, I kinda think you ought to be able to figure this out. Hint : Lies, treachery, force and terror. Ancient Roman history alone is sufficient to work this out (if there isn't an actual exact match in there, it'll be close), and there can't be more than a thirty or forty or so de-facto dictatorships active in the world now. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2018 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ -1 for lack of any historical research. I hate to fall fall prey to Godwin's Law, but just look at how Adolf Hitler rose to power. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 23, 2018 at 0:31

3 Answers 3

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This is quite an interesting question. The answer will be affected by several things you would have to consider. The first of which would be the identity of your rising dictator. Who is he? Is he a member of the founding families, of your 'nobility'? Or is he a commoner, someone rising from the 'people'? A noble would have the advantage of wealth and ties, of social powers. However, since you implied that the 'nobles' are blamed for the war, it would be a drawback to overcome.

A commoner would not have the social power and the ear of the nobility. He would be an outsider and someone the nobles would seek to eliminate or control. However, he would have the advantage of the people's solidarity, a hero rising from the ranks.

In any case, this man would have to be cunning and ruthless when needed, but in a covert way. He would have to win the support of the people AND the founder families. It would mean he would have to be politically savvy. The first thing he would have to do is to understand his opponents and goals:

1) What are the weaknesses and wants of the noble families?

Weaknesses can be exploited. He would have to threaten some, cow others, bribe, deceive or win the true support of these families. He can even pull the Killer Puppet stunt: pretend he can be ruled, that he's stupid or easily controlled and would be a good puppet ruler, then turn on his puppeteers when they are no longer needed.

2) What are the needs and desires of the people?

Find out what the people want and give it to them, or even pretend to, and you will have their support. He will have to make the people believe his rule is in their best interest. He can pull a Patriot stunt: establish himself as the liberator of the people from the oppression of the founder families. This may alienate the nobles though, so either he takes that into account or he does it carefully to avoid such a thing.

3) Is there an outside faction or enemy that can be exploited?

If he can unite the people against a common enemy or use that enemy as a target he would eliminate or act against, he would become a hero and the obvious choice for a ruler. He can even pull a Phantom Killer stunt: fabricate an enemy or fabricate events to turn an uninvolved outside faction or nation into an enemy in the eyes of the people and nobles.

4) Is there any resource or sought-after item or knowledge he can bring the people?

Every nation covets something. Whether its conquest, more land, some innovation or invention they do not yet possess, something thought out of their reach or something that has not yet been obtained before. If he can bring them something like that, he would have the nation's ear.

5) Is there an option of military takeover?

When all else fails, there is always the good old hostile takeover. If he has the means, the wealth or the right to recruit or otherwise beget a big or strong enough army, he can just become a true tyrant and take everything by force. A crude solution but sometimes the brute force approach is the easiest. How he begets that army can actually be a matter for another such detailed debate.

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  • $\begingroup$ The dictator is not a member of the nobility but he is not poor. He is somewhere in the middle. The dictator does not have support of the army so I can't have a coup with the military. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2018 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ Can he somehow forge lineage that would make him a lost member of the noble families? That can be a way into that faction. If not, he'll need to weasel his way to the top and it would probably take knowledge about the families' weaknesses. As I said, he'lll need to extort, intimidate, murder and deceive to get some of their support while others can be convinced to accept him. $\endgroup$
    – Kaiannae
    Apr 22, 2018 at 18:57
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Do you know the game Junta? Get some friends, get the game, take notes, and there is the plot for your story.

Or have the dictator in your story try a genuine change in the society.

  • Tell the people that somebody is to blame. It is always easier to explain failure with lies because the truth is complicated and has messy bits that don't quite fit.
  • It helps if those scapegoats have money that could be seized.
  • When that explanation doesn't hold any more, because the dictator has been in charge for years, pick a foreign enemy.

Sounds familiar?

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Have the dictator control the press.

The quickest way to gain control over the masses is to deceive them into believing it's in their interest to support you.

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