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We're talking about a big group of ~3000 (possibly more) survivors around 5 years after the downfall. 1% of humanity is still alive, 59% is zombified (classic slow zombies, TWD-like), the remaining 40% of people are dead for good. The zeds recently started evolving into faster and stronger beasts, no one currently knows why. The protagonist gets picked up by a patrol of the aforementioned group. This group lives under a 1984-style dictatorship, but fares quite well overall (and fleeing is not an option for the hero, as surviving on your own became nearly impossible after the zeds slowly started evolving). So the hero has to make the best of it, constantly trying to evade the propaganda that has brainwashed most other members of the group.

The problem is the backstory of the first steps of the establishing of the dictatorship. "5 years after the downfall" is a very short time-span, so we can't go the way of "brainwashing using fear and propaganda over generations". The people remember the time before the downfall, but are disgusted by it and praise their leader. How could this leader have established the basics of the group during the first months of the downfall, and attracted even more members eventhough the totalitarianism is so obvious? I thought about him controlling the only food source in the area, but wouldn't he have been overthrown shortly after people regained their strength after joining?

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closed as off-topic by Renan, Halfthawed, John, EDL, user535733 Aug 20 at 15:52

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  • $\begingroup$ This is the very definition of too story based, brainstorming and the plot are your job. $\endgroup$ – John Aug 20 at 15:21
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So who says he just started gathering followers after the apocalypse? Maybe he had a cult going when the end happened, hell maybe he predicted it (or something close enough he can pretend).

If he had already been stockpiling loyal cult members and supplies then once the apocalypse happens he's in a great position to take over. He's probably got a tricked out base, weapons and organized soldiers. The cult members are already loyal and have all the important positions and everyone else is too scared and disorganized to resist.

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I really don't see that you actually have a problem here. Dictatorships almost always form around a cult of personality, and the more pressure the population is under, the more quickly they can form. All you need is the Dictator to accumulate just enough power to create a safer place for people to be than wherever they were, and they'll flock to him.

Basically all you need is someone who was a minor authority figure immediately prior to the zombie apocalypse who already has some capable, motivated followers, and a place that has food, water, and safety. County Sheriff, Chief of Police in a medium size town. Prison Warden. Drug Cartel Kingpin. Anybody like that with ~20 armed followers takes over the local Wal-mart and there you go.

It's pretty simple, really. It wouldn't even take five years. Someone like that could have three thousand followers in a matter of WEEKS assuming there were enough survivors that could get to him.

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The leader is a benevolent dictator.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benevolent_dictatorship

A benevolent dictatorship refers to a government in which an authoritarian leader exercises absolute political power over the state but is perceived to do so with regard for benefit of the population as a whole, standing in contrast to the decidedly malevolent stereotype of a dictator.

The fall happened in part because the power structures of states were not flexible enough to adapt quickly. They were hampered and slowed by democratic mechanisms and decentralizied power structures, or at least that is the perception of these survivors. They keep their dictator because they are under no illusions as to the nature of the world now and they know of no existing viable options outside their enclave - or possibly what they know about is substantially worse than what they have now. They feel that they owe their lives to him, and his rule is so far effective at keeping people safe, fed and busy using whatever skills each has for the benefit of the group. He is not mean or capricious. He is fair and just. He is perceived as putting the interests of his people generally above the interest of any one individual, including himself.

In the short term and especially in chaotic conditions, a benevolent and enlightened dictator is the best form of leadership. That is the situation for military groups in battle or a warship at sea. The problem with this form of government for a polity is that there is no way of ensuring that the dictator stays benevolent.

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