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Yesterday you were leading a pleasant easy going life as a 20 year old lazy, intelligent but good natured, young adult who's father just happens to be the notorious totalitarian dictator of a very small, but somewhat oil rich, country. Unfortunately your father just died of a heart attack early this morning and now it appears you are the dictator in charge of your country, an honor you honestly could do without.

You're not really cut out to be a dictator, You don't think you would be great at it, and you don't want the stress of leading a country or the hatred of the subjugated populous. In fact, you've always kind of felt bad about that whole subjugation thing. It sure would be nice if your country didn't consistently get labeled as one of the 20 worst countries to live in by various human rights watch groups year after year. You always told your father it wasn't right, but he insisted it was necessary to stay in power, and honestly he was more worried about building more statues of himself than improving the quality of life for his citizens.

Now you are in the position to do something about it. You're committed to fixing things by ending the dictatorship and setting up a democracy so the people can rule themselves and hopefully create a more fair society for everyone, and of course save you all the work of ruling.

Unfortunately, just because you're committed to this idea doesn't mean you know how to make it happen. Trying to set up a democracy sounds like it would take a lot of work and planning, and while you're pretty intelligent, you have to admit you never had a knack for that sort of large scale organization, or politics in general to be honest. You're not really sure how to go about making arrangements for such a radical change in power.

And then there is the problem with your father's 'advisors'. He had a large number of friends and cronies who were living pretty luxurious lives by exploiting the wealth of the nation, and its citizens. You doubt any of them will be happy with the idea of creating a democracy and giving up all the power and wealth they currently have. They're not going to help you figure out how to make this happen, in fact you're kind of afraid to even mention the idea to them. What would men who are happy with leading a country that will kidnap and beat dissonance do if they heard you were going to give away their power to the people they were having beat just a week ago?

You're pretty sure you could get some support form other countries like the USA or the UK to do this, they may even finally remove all those trade sanctions once you start to transition the goverment, you just need to figure out how to start the process without getting your own country's leadership too upset with you...

And of course while you sincerely care about improving your citizens quality of life, you're not completely selfless. You would like to arrange for the transition to leave you with a decent lifestyle afterwards, even if not as flamboyant as it was in your father's day, ideally one where you don't have to be involved in politics ever again!

So, how should you set about changing the goverment, without revolutions and all that nasty violence and bloodshed, especially without your blood being shed?

For this question assume an alternate world almost identical to ours, with the only differences being the presence of your small dictatorship. The leaders of other countries that may get involved would be ruled by some general president/prime minister/whatever rather then the specific leaders in power today; in fact I'm open to adjusting political affiliation and general policies of various leaders as necessary to serve the plot.

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    $\begingroup$ See youtube.com/watch?v=rStL7niR7gs. Many people will have great interest in keeping the oppressive system intact. If you try to purge them, the military will probably not listen and will remove you instead and replace you with someone who keeps robbing the people and paying them. Also, if you do manage to pass reforms, the people will often demand more, which you may not be willing to give. Then, they will revolt, overthrow you, and the next guy will probably be worse. $\endgroup$ Jul 30, 2018 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ This sounds similar to Spain when Francisco Franco died and Juan Carlos I took over. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Jul 30, 2018 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ Chile and Pinochet fits the bill pretty closely, except that he did the transition himself. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jul 31, 2018 at 6:12
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    $\begingroup$ Any reason why you don't not grab your passport and jump in the next plane for a nicer country? Setting up a democracy sounds like work, and as a somewhat lazy person I certainly wouldn't bother with it. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2018 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ this is probably one of the biggest unanswered questions of the 21st century. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2018 at 20:54

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Rather than a pure democracy, transition to a constitutional monarchy. Establish a council of some kind of oligarchic advisors - say a representative from each province's governor, or somesuch. Balance them out with a "people's council". Make it clear that they're both advisory roles (for the time being): their job is to present you with a clear picture of the country's issues and what they think you can do about it. Your job is to make decisions.

Then, over time, gradually change that. Give your advisors more and more specific powers. Make their approval required for certain types of proposals. (Budgets especially - power is almost worthless if you can't pay for your decrees.) Then make yours optional. Frame this as a way to make the country more responsive to its own needs and crises - the king can't be everywhere, so your loyal representatives will handle smaller issues.

Eventually, you'll become pretty much unnecessary to the whole process. Better yet, your advisors and representatives will by this time have grown quite powerful, and will obviously be loathe to give it back to the monarchy any time soon. The downside is that they're likely to be deeply corrupt, and you'll probably want to spend more of your time rooting out that corruption as you go along.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes there is a contemporary dictator doing this in africa (I do not remember which country or name). This dude is making long term changes in the "culture" and "institutions" of the country for it to be able to handle democracy for many many generations. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2018 at 8:07
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    $\begingroup$ Look for spain transition. From Franco dictatorship to constitucional monarchy.. $\endgroup$
    – Onoper
    Jul 31, 2018 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ The biggest problem with this is your current (corrupt) advisory counsel. They'll likely want nothing to do with that "people's counsel". And are the powers behind the throne, having control over/high ranks in your military, or have their own groups of hirelings. Most will like the powers they possess now, and don't want to give it up. $\endgroup$
    – vinzzz001
    May 21 at 10:06
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One possibility that may not be completely feasible in the real world but could make for a fun story is to not do things well, but do them as poorly as possible. Be a really bad dictator. I mean like a B-movie style evil overlord. Do everything you can think of wrong. Find out what people in your country like and ban it. Put heavy tariffs on everything people want to buy. Imprison anyone popular. Steal lots of money and live a flagrantly excessive lifestyle.

You can focus your attention on actions that are highly visible and highly unpopular (especially to people watching oversees) but with no major real-world disadvantages (or even some advantages). You could put a %500 tariff on chocolate, ban music from some popular bands, etc. You can spend money on things that don't cost that much on a country-wide scale but are sure to make international headlines because of how excessive they seem, like a "gold" Mercedes that is actually just thinly-plated.

Acting as a standard villain has some advantages. Villains kill or imprison anyone who could pose a threat to them. This could be used as an excuse to imprison anyone who is competent enough to hold the country together in the face of a power vacuum. Once anyone with any power who isn't stupid and blindly loyal to you is out of power, you can "nationalize" your fathers' friends' wealth and "give it to yourself" (in a form that would be easy to invest back into the economy once you are gone). You can reorganize the military in the worst way possible to guarantee it can't mount an effective defense (or outright flees in the face of the slightest opposition).

Behind the scenes, you can negotiate with some world leader having political troubles to invade the country and restore democracy. You will "commit suicide" during the invasion, and they will give you some land in the mountains were you can live off the small fortune you hid away by skimming off a fraction of a percent of the fortunes you looted from your dad's more corrupt cronies during the chaos.

If you can do this quickly, over the course of a few years, your people won't have to suffer all that much, especially if you focus your attention on highly visible and unpopular but ultimately inconsequential actions. The world will look at it as some crazy spoiled kid who got power he had no idea what to do with and had to be stopped. And professional bureaucrats whose job it is to understand the nitty-gritty details of how a proper government works can rebuild things from the ground up without any the old vested interests getting in the way.

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Use your advisors. They got to where they are for a reason.

You inherited your wealth and lifestyle. But among your fathers advisors are going to be some self-made men and savvy operators. You know which ones they are. Creative, flexible, intelligent and ruthless.

/You doubt any of them will be happy with the idea of creating a democracy and giving up all the power and wealth they currently have/

So you create a democracy where they give none of that up, and you recruit them to help you do it. Point at the changing times. Flatter them by noting the ability of these individuals to pre-empt trouble. Note the presence of filthy rich robber barons in countries like the US. Propose to co-opt chumps like the EU to underwrite the transition.

The ones you choose will be pleased to have been chosen. Some may have been thinking along those lines already, but stayed quiet for fear of your old man. These advisors will help you make the new nation one which will be putatively democratic, well regarded by the foreign (chumps), more revolution proof and also preserve them on the top.

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Slowly

From the bottom up

First you need to gently introduce people to the concept of voting, agreeing something between a group and proceeding with that action. It sounds like you're coming from a very tribal situation. People are used to having a strong man in charge who tells them what to do, each to his own and each to his position.

The local council of elders

You're going to start by pandering to egos, regional councils of elders are going to get a budget to improve their area. This is beneath the interests of national government, but to spend the money they must have a majority vote, in person, to take action. No ballot papers, members are the heads of local households.

That works well enough in the regions but there are too many households in the towns. The elders are going to have to appoint fewer of their number to make up the council, no more than 21 (arbitrary) but there could be 100 households, they're going to have to vote. This can be as freeform as they like. It should all be done in person, they probably all know each other which is the key to this, they're less likely to fight and more likely to come to some common agreement.

The regional council

The next step is for each local council to send a representative to a regional council. Again they're going to have to vote to select a member of their group to go forward as a representative.

You're introducing democracy by stages

It's flawed, but it doesn't tread on the toes of the real power brokers in the country, yet. Your councils are dealing with the drains and the roads and the waste, the little things that don't make money that big players think are beneath them but that local people care about.

You slowly give the councils more responsibilities, specifically not powers, but with great responsibility comes great power. Eventually the councils are running the country. It's time for a national council. In due course you allow people other than the wealthy land owners and heads of households to vote, but don't rush these things. Power should remain with the traditionally powerful until it's too late.

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Unfortunately your father just died of a heart attack early this morning and now it appears you are the dictator in charge of your country

Appearances can be deceptive. :-)

You might discover that you are a dictator dependent on the support of e.g. the army (or worse). That's pretty common as a pattern, and that would complicate moving to a democracy because what you want and what you can get are not your own choice alone.

Of course, in a sense, you have a democracy. Alright, it might be a small democracy with only those people of rank 2 star general (or above) able to "vote", but nonetheless it's a start. :-)

Your not really cut out to be a dictator

Then there's a good chance you'll be "cut out" of being a dictator. Time to let those gene's kick in and let's hope you got the right (or wrong) genes for the job or, well, retirement is an option to mention to the generalissimos.

Now you are in the position to do something about it.

Cough with your blessing generals. :-)

You're committed to fixing things by ending the dictatorship and setting up a democracy so the people can rule themselves and hopefully create a more fair society for everyone, and of course save you all the work of ruling.

Because being prime minister is less work than being dictator ? Don't think Theresa May would agree with that. :-)

Dictator : "ask" = "done, no problemo".

Prime Minister : "ask" = "have to shout over the idiots (sorry, cabinet) just to be heard asking."

Cured of democracy yet ? You soon will be.

Anyone can be a dictator, but being a democrat is really gawd awful.

Trying to set up a democracy sounds like it would take allot of work and planning, and while your pretty intelligent you have to admit you never had a knack for that sort of large scale organization, or politics in general to be honest. Your not really sure how to go about making arrangements for such a radical change in power.

I am happy to inform you that, dictator or not, your late Father (the Iron Fist in the Iron Glove), will have no end of ambitious and possibly even talented advisors and bureaucrats and lawyers happy to advise you.

And then there's the generalissimos to "offer advice". :-)

Your first step is then an obvious one :

  • Execute the generalissimos, advisors and lawyers. The bureaucrats will do what they're told ( the lawyers would too, but, me, I hate lawyers and now is the chance to get some payback :-) ).

So fast you'll barely have time to mop up the blood (there are companies that do this for you) new advisors and lawyers will appear, and a lot of very happy and loyal (or their families get to hear about it) newly promoted generals are in place, along with their new radio controlled exploding collars. Just in case they don't like their families.

Yeah, I haven't forgotten the democracy thing. Bare with me ...

Your new lawyers and advisors and freshly motivated bureaucrats will now begin working on drafting that new constitution (see I remembered) and plans for a referendum and parliament and some law reforms. Maybe some draft docs about retirement funds for former dictators would be useful too.

So we delegate the whole planning and, you should pardon the expression, execution parts of the democracy thing.

Probably useful to form a people's advisory council now. No, wait, that could look like communism and we know that doesn't work so good. Have to wait a bit. For the plans and the executions to take place, as it were.

And then there is the problem with your father's 'advisors'.

Way ahead of ya, there pal. :-)

Your pretty sure you could get some support form other countries like the USA or the UK to do this, they may even finally remove all those trade sanctions once you start to transition the goverment, you just need to figure out how to start the process without getting your own countries leadership too upset with you...

You need RCEC.

Radio. Controlled. Explosive. Collars.

That should keep the "leadership" pretty much in their place for a while. At least the ones who didn't take the hint when the lawyers, advisors and generalissimos got shot (or whatever method the "dice" came up with :-) ).

No problem there.

But let's "nationalize" their assets just in case.

You would like to arrange for the transition to leave you with a decent lifestyle afterwards, even if not as flamboyant as it was in your father's day, ideally one where you don't have to be involved in politics ever again!

Absolutely. 100% fair and reasonable. A slice of those nationalized assets transferred to a nice overseas bank account or two look about right. Who could object ? Cough.

Of course people can turn nasty, so lets make sure that we convert those to, you know, easily "secured" forms of wealth to avoid any confusion. Hey, let's not make a mess for anyone else and let's make sure they're untraceable forms of wealth so there aren't any silly arguments later on.

And maybe burn the records, just to avoid later hassle and squabbling.

And we are, I assure you, getting ever closer to a full democracy.

So, how should you set about changing the goverment, without revolutions and all that nasty violence and bloodshed, especially without your blood being shed?

I say this with enormous sadness, but alas we were unable to completely avoid bloodshed.

But it's all a question of whose blood, isn't it ?

Look, you can let the lawyers live if you're feeling squeamish about this.

Your problem here is simple : the former power holders aren't the type to go quietly and you've already got the infrastructure for making them go noisily in place, so may as well use it.

It's all for a good cause and never mind that "Road to Hell paved with good intentions" nonsense - that's what people in the generalissimos' cells say. We do plan to live to retire, right ? :-)

For this question assume an alternate world almost identical to ours, with the only differences being the presence of your small dictatorship. The leaders of other countries that may get involved would be ruled by some general president/prime minister/whatever rather then the specific leaders in power today; in fact I'm open to adjusting political affiliation and general policies of various leaders as necessary to server the plot.

( "General President" - took the words out of my mount. :-)

If history tells us anything it's that inviting other countries in to "help transition power" is another way of transferring power to a creep working for an entirely different country. Or to wind up with a civil war, which is a tad antisocial IMHO. Let's not do that.

So a day (or week, "tops") of bloody removals from offices, followed by some quick work with a mop, bucket and disinfectant and you'll be mere months away from getting that new constitution and that election to the new parliament.

And of course you'll need to stay on a short while to ensure the whole thing goes well. And maybe you should ensure the constitution allows you to maintain a little control just in case your guidance and inspiration is needed a little longer.

And what if people really screw up and you just have to step back in to power, for their own good ? I mean, just in case, to be socially responsible, we need to have the option there.

It's only common sense !

And parliament probably shouldn't get full control too soon. After all, people aren't properly educated and used to democracy. It needs a transition period. And we shouldn't rush this - slow and steady wins the race !

So, once you're completely satisfied the whole democracy thing is working the way you want, you can retire to Scotland, which you inexplicably bought with your (generously donated) retirement fund.

Oh yeah, don't forget to deactivate those RCECs on your way out of the country. Or if you think it's more efficient you could, you know, activate them. Dealer's choice.

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    $\begingroup$ Bravo, bravisimo! $\endgroup$
    – Gustavo
    Aug 1, 2018 at 17:52
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1.- SECRET POLICE

You need to protect yourself first. Reform or create a secret police that only responds to you and it's above everyone else in grade. Target a few low ranking officers and a powerfull one, make their whole family dissapear (even the pets), that would cement the terror to keep everyone thinking there is eyes looking for them.

2.- AUTONOMOUS STATES

Letting people choose their own leaders it's dangerous, they can pick someone greedy enough to challenge you, so idealy you would start for making them choose between hand picked candidates that you can control or remove without issues. I would put them in charge for a year tops and call in for new elections. At the third year I would start accepting open campaings from the citizens, making the least powerfull states be the first in the transition.

3.- DEMILITARIZATION

People with guns have power, you need to reduce this power to avoid posible struggle in the change of goverment. Reduce the use of armed forces in control mechanics and start with farming/Health/Infraestructure proyects to reduce the armed pool of your generals as you feed personal to this new endeavors. Remove from the budget any contract for ammunition and make live ammunition drills a week event to try to burn out the actual stockpile.

4.- IMPROVE LIFE CONDITIONS

This part it's really hard to balance, since you need to keep the population still under control while you give them economic power. I would concentrate in the surplus of basic needs first, food, water, shelter and health by giving subsidies to anyone trying to create a bussinees in those markets.

5.- PROTECT RIGHTS

This needs to go in hand with the point above, people wouldn't risk investing any money or time if there is a chance that the government can come in and take it all. You need to enforce that people would own what they bought and you would protect them and their stuff over everything.

6.- CLEANING CORRUPTION

There is corruption everywhere, but usually when people tends to figth for survival in a daily basis, morals and ethics are cast away. And this is the perfect place to see corruption spread in everything people touch. This would be the hardest part to address, deppending in how much time people has being living under this conditions it would become part of their culture and removing it would be the hardest part of all. I have no idea how this could be achieve, but usually with a strong a fast legal solution, after all the points above are being resolved could naturaly fall back in line.

After this points are achieve probably 10 years in the future, you would call all your governors to choose someone among them to carry your dutys while in "sick" leave while under the table you dissolve your secret police in acid if possible.

7.- DYING

You need to die, or atleast the dictator. So people wouldn't look for you after the new elections, since to let them get to this point would have leave an important number of bodys and people claiming for your blood.

Make the presidential plane explote in middle of the occean while returning from your doctors. While you stay in your Manhattan floor watching the news.

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Read about Bhutan. The previous king was an absolute monarch (a much nicer guy than your dictator), who decided to turn his country into a democracy, and give his people a higher standard of living. He has largely been successful, and even managed to retire in favour of his son, who is now a constitutional monarch.

Gross National Happiness Index is instituted as the goal of the government of Bhutan in the Constitution of Bhutan, enacted on 18 July 2008.

And yet in New Zealand we have a Bhutanese Refugee community. It seems that, despite the goodwill and competence the monarch, creating a democracy ain't easy.

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Some good "reading" material to illustrate some of the difficulties: CGP Grey - The Rules For Rulers

The basic problem you're going to run into is that, even as the autocratic dictator of this country, you serve at the pleasure of those "advisors" you mentioned. These people aren't just trusted counsel, they also run key offices in your government, such as tax collection, local law enforcement and the military. They are your keys to power, the kingmakers of your government. They do things that no government can exist without doing, mainly gathering treasure to fill the public coffers and keeping law and order within the country while protecting it from foreign threats.

They do these jobs because they are well-compensated with treasure from the public coffers. And, absent some altruistic streak, this is typically the only reason they do these jobs, at least for you. If you fail to adequately reward their loyalty with treasure, they will replace you with someone who has promised them more than they're getting.

This ultimately describes the political situation in most totalitarian states; The guy at the top is using that position of power to reward a relatively small number of lackeys from the wealth of the country, and those lackeys in turn are using their share of that treasure to reward their own underlings, in a pyramid of power that stays stable only as long as the money keeps flowing. It usually does so, keeping some of the nastiest dictators in power for decades at a time, by simply hauling it out of the ground in the form of natural resources. Licensing your mineral rights to foreign mining and drilling companies puts a lot of money in your pocket, that you don't have to pay out to your own people to run the mines or the wells. You can live in opulence, surrounded by a nation of starving, illiterate slaves, by simply paying a few people well enough to keep you in power and perpetuate this system, and providing just enough infrastructure to benefit you and your friends, and enable the economic activity that keeps the treasure coming in. Road from your mansion to your private airport? An absolute necessity. Roads from your mines to the port? An economic necessity. Schools for your people? A total waste of money.

The same, quite ironically, is ultimately true of a democracy, the primary difference being that there are a lot more kingmakers, who have a say in how you do your job and who expect compensation for their loyalty. To keep them all happy, you need a lot of treasure, more than you're likely to haul out of the ground in the form of natural resources. That treasure comes from the valuable work of your common people, and for that work to be valuable, your common people need to be well-fed, well-cared-for, well-educated and generally happy with their lives. That requires more of the country's treasure to be spent on things like roads and schools and hospitals and recreation centers, because those things are key to the prosperity of an advanced economy, enabling each worker to produce far more wealth for the nation than a poor, illiterate mineworker in a dictatorship.

So, you have a relatively simple, poor, export-dependent country, that makes you and your "friends" very rich while everyone else is starving, illiterate and living in squalor. How do you get to a functioning democracy, governing a nation of educated workers producing valuable labor?

That's a really good question, because in order for your workers to produce anything of real value, they have to be decently fed, at least somewhat educated and kept healthy enough not to waste the first two investments. However, by doing so, you are triggering your own downfall, in two ways. First, the treasure you're spending making your people's lives better is treasure not spent on maintaining the loyalty of your court. That opens the door for someone else to sway their loyalty by taking back the portion you're spending on the people and give it back to the ones with real power.

Second, by feeding and training your people, you are creating the very army that will rebel against you, because your advisers, your keys to power, will promise those people even more than they are already getting if they just get rid of you while your advisers stand back and let this coup happen. Very likely, as soon as you're gone, those promises will be broken and everything will go back to the way it was, because the whole point of replacing you was to stop doing everything you did that enabled the coup in the first place.

In between these very poor countries with very powerful dictators ruling over starving, destitute, illiterate people, and very rich countries with democratic leaders ruling over educated, productive, relatively wealthy people, is a valley of revolution, in which the generation of wealth by that country requires its people to be healthy enough and educated enough and productive enough to make your life miserable - and very short - when they realize (or are told) they're getting screwed over.

I realize this isn't a real answer to your question - how to overcome these difficulties - at least not yet. Unfortunately I'm out of time at present, so I'll leave this here for now, and hopefully I can come back quickly and edit. I just wanted to illustrate how difficult turning a dictatorship into a democracy is, and thus why you don't see it happen a lot, no matter how hard the advanced economies of the world try.


EDIT:

Tolja I'd be back. So, we have the statement of the problem; you, as the wannabe-benevolent dictator of this country, are in power because those "advisors" are allowing you to be there, as long as you keep them rich. And not just rich, richer than anyone else they could put in your place would make them. These advisors are your keys to power; in addition to counseling you, they are probably also in charge of key government offices like the military/law enforcement, tax collection etc.

One potential solution is exactly as Going Durden stated in the comments; get some new keys to power. You will commonly see this in US politics, and in fact it's designed to happen. A new President will choose a new Cabinet, a new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and dozens of other political appointees, all leading the bureaucracy underneath the President that enables him to get things done.

In your dictatorship, that is accomplished far more simply. Go one level down in the hierarchy of each of your keys' own power structures, and find people willing to be loyal to you directly, and not their immediate boss in your council. Then, have your new military leader round up the existing council of advisors and publicly execute them. These new advisors can also be groomed to be willing to try a daring new experiment in government; democratic rule based on popular vote.

This sounds really easy; in practice, absent a strong rule of law or some handwaving in an HBO script, it's actually really difficult to replace your senior governing council wholesale without also replacing the guy on top. The biggest difficulty is recruiting someone senior enough for each post - especially the military - that everyone underneath will naturally follow them, but still young and idealistic enough to turn his back on his predecessors' share of the treasure, which you are specifically stating he will not get if you succeed.

There is a carrot you can offer here, several actually. First, and more the threat of a stick, is that stable democracies don't tend to end in the violent death of the elected leaders and their families. Dictatorships, on the other hand, commonly do end in the assassination or outright lynching of the dictator and various people close to him. If the new leaders want to avoid the torches and pitchforks, they will need to buy in to the concept of a popular democracy, and work to make it happen fast enough that the process cannot be perverted by other people who know how to operate in the current system.

Another potential carrot is in the simple dynastic nature of the people in power even as the power structure changes. In the US, for example, many of the Framers of the Constitution became key leaders of the government created by that document. Families, and family names, become valuable political capital, as the sons (and daughters) of well-loved politicians get seats of power more on name recognition than any proven skill. Such will very likely be the case in your new experiment; your friends won't have as much power or as much wealth as they might have had with you as totalitarian dictator, but they and their families will be much more secure in their wealth, and will have a reliable "in" to political power if and when they want it by virtue of being highly recognizable names associated with bringing this country into a new era of freedom and prosperity.

These carrots could also be persuasive to current members of your advisory council. However, you have to be very, very careful either way you go. Divulge the plan, or even intimate that a change of power is imminent, to the wrong person, and everyone you were hoping to catch unawares will be triggering their own contingency plans. Those could be as benign as a chartered flight out of your reach, or they could be the coup that sees you and your remaining family's mutilated corpses on display in the public square, while your advisors put some well-liked puppet in the hot seat and continue normally. When you play the Game of Thrones, you win, or you die.

Ultimately, your best chance of pulling this off is to have as many truly loyal friends as you possibly can, close enough to the top of the hierarchy to act quickly and competently as your new keys to power even as the people who think they hold those keys have their seats of power removed from them. The greatest difficulty will be having enough of those friends willing to work together to reduce the power they would otherwise have. Democracies are a very stable and very desirable status quo, but creating one from scratch requires giving up the local maxima of stability in a dictatorship, and the territory between is ridiculously unstable, and notoriously hard for a country to traverse quickly enough to avoid backsliding into totalitarian rule.

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    $\begingroup$ one partial solution, though it is one the young dictator in this scenario would loathe to use, is to find a way to round up all of the advisors/cronies/oligarch in one place (like say, call an emergency security meeting) and then have them all murdered at the same moment. Basically decapitate the entire government except you and small regional administrators in one go. Replace them with newly chosen cronies, but ones that fully understand that their time in the office is temporary, and that the bullet with heir name on it is already waiting if they try a coup. $\endgroup$ May 20 at 11:17
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    $\begingroup$ @GoingDurden Good idea, except that the oligarchs make a point of reading Stack Exchange Worldbuilding. Or they read Machiavelli, or someone else, or they figured it out for themselves. $\endgroup$ May 20 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ @GoingDurden and whoever would be willing nd able to do so would have ot be several of those advisors. $\endgroup$
    – John
    May 20 at 23:36
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Those advisors?

Those traitors!!

That's why you made purges! So you carefully try to fly some proposals, 1 on 1. Those who show an open mind get to stay. Those who oppose, turns out you found dirt on them. And if dirt isn't found, you dig deeper, and dirt will be found. And you hang the traitor!

Then you make a grand charade, on how they always list you on TOP 20 places to avoid. DSOllens-land is the best country!

And commit to improve by the end of this decade, to be in the top 10 places to live. Come hell of high water, it will be done.

And ruthlessly make everyone follow. You will be improving your citizens lives, not because you secretly care, but because no one mocks Dsollen!

All your subjects will stand in awe, of your power, your unquestioned rule. Those who may oppose will be questioned by outsiders to forestall a great improvement for the country, those who help, are to be lauded as loyal subjects who follow every command.

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You create a virtual one. Anonymized, but its there- it votes, it has a virtual supreme court, a virtual executive, a virtual judicative and a virtual legislature - and people just participate in it. A positive parallel world, that does not acknowledge the dictatorship and shuns the minions. You can be "house-arrested" and still be in the police of a dictatorship. Nobody talks to you, nobody sells you anything, you are socially stillborn, as if you had never existed.

The most important part is communication infrastructure save from the dictatorship. The rest follows. This is accomplished by parallel communication infrastructure. As in - not using state- telcom infrastructure at all.

Messages are passed from phone to phone, till they reach the other party. Annonymized- only following the social structure, avoiding black holes, passed on by closeness to the social plankton.

Example: Airport to buisness traveller/pilot to stewardess to barkeeper to bus commuter to your street in your hometown. Its super slow. But also not interceptable, unless they follow the messengers in person. Nobody knows the content or the final recipient, its one onion layer pealed back each time. The transport layer is not even conspiring against the state- its just a series of infected apps using bluetooth.

And one day- the state in hiding, just becomes the real state.

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