What are some ways I can corrupt the government of a country's capital city in such a way as to give a small social group power but still maintaining the illusion of a democratic republic? It would preferable to do this in a way that wouldn't disturb the rest of the world economy too much.

Some more information about my world: No magic, technology comparable late 1800s- running water, steamboats, radio (yes I'm aware this is a bit later),telegraph and electrical lighting in developed areas.

Some more information about my city: It is in an equatorial region of the world. Its main exports are spices, coffee, tea, rice, stoneware and earthenware, and some fruits specific to this world. The indigenous people from the area were conquered about 300 years ago by foreigners, but they still make up most of the population. There are three branches of a monotheistic religion present in the city, one practiced by the descendants of the conquerors and two practiced by the descendants of the conquered. The city is on a peninsula that separates a smaller sea from an ocean. The area experiences some piracy, but the main trading partners of the country are on the other side of the ocean. The city is on a river, and the main occupations of its lower citizens are digging clay from the clay flats and working in the factories making the stoneware and earthenware. The voting system is gerrymandered so as to significantly disadvantage the working class. The upper class mainly make money through shipping companies, factories, real estate, and high-paying government jobs.

  • $\begingroup$ You mention three branches of a religion. Do they get along like the Catholics and Protestants do now, or like the Catholics and Protestants did in the 1600s? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 6 '16 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ Wouln't a better question be how not to corrupt a country's capital city so as to avoid a small group of people taking hold of power while keeping the illusion of a democratic republic? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 11 '17 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ Look at Washington DC today. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy May 17 '17 at 2:48

1. Voting

a. Undesirables
You know, everyone can vote. Naturally not criminals (If you have a significant amount of people in prison and you treat them really badly, let them voting is a bad idea). And not women, they are much too uninformed for such precious decisions. This means also idiots, crazies and uneducated people. And not people doing nothing for their country such as military service. Nothing of it is invented, such systems existed.

b. Restrict candidates or allow the system to include unvoted candidates.

You can restrict some politicians by including several other conditions, e.g. in Germany the president must be at least 40 years old. Some of our oddities in Germany is the Landesliste, which allows politicians to enter service just by their affiliation to the party winning votes. Nobody voted them in. This is one severe defect in the voting system. You can work on it and allow that parties include people which are automatically voted in and therefore have control over the personal.

c. Proportional votes to influence / power.

During the early phases of democracy there were systems allowing important persons getting more votes.

2. Power

a. Voting is a facade

The people have no real power, they are essentially deprived because what they say will be only executed if the real power people agree. Otherwise their instructions will be ignored, forgotten etc. Some people may have enough charisma and power to break out of this constraints, which leads us to...

b. Russian dismissal

"Hello, friend. We heard that you are unhappy with the current conditions. Please do not rack your brain about such unimportant problems. Everyone here is quite happy the way it is. Please allow us to give you...a gift. A gift from well-meaning friends. Wait, you do not want it ? Hmm, you know that it is a dangerous city here, one of your predecessors was unfortunately rolled over by a coach. Please think it over."

  • $\begingroup$ I think your point 1b is wrong as it is stated, but it is on the right track. People in Germany can vote for a party list which has been published, if they do it they have voted for all names on that list. You are right that the voter can't decide on the party list, no more than a consumer can demand pizza at McDonalds. For that you go to Pizza Hut, where the choice of burgers isn't that great. So: Proportional vote, candidate lists prepared by the party machine, make it difficult to start your own list. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Dec 7 '16 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ @o.m. I must admit I do not see the exact difference to what I said, only that the list in published in advance. Anyway preparing lists allows you to inconspicously insert people you want to have into the party. $\endgroup$ – Thorsten S. Dec 8 '16 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ If a party list gets a certain number of votes, the voters have elected those people, fair and square. They did not have the choice to depart from the order which the party had proposed, but responsible voters should check the list before casting their vote. If they don't like the second, or third, or tenth name on the list, they shouldn't vote for that party. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Dec 8 '16 at 16:00

Elect representatives but construct the election process so each representative is beholden to a small group of oligarchs

Checklist of things to do:

  1. Promote a very strong government "by the people, for the people" ethos and ensure regular and "fair" elections. This will help preserve the appearance that "the people rule".

  2. Make it very difficult for prospective representatives to win elections without considerable bankrolls. Perhaps this could be done by demanding expensive ads campaigns. Under no circumstances permit the government to give each candidate some money to fund their campaign. Make contributions by wealthy donors to these prospective reps be completely legal.

  3. Organize voting districts as much as possible to vote corrupted representatives into power and keep them there.

  4. Suppress, "legally" and quietly as much as possible voting blocks that will not support the oligarchy.

  5. Make minor small economic concessions to keep the populace happy. Cater as much as possible to the non-economic values of the voting block that usually votes pro-oligarchy.

  6. Sell the poor portions of your population on the lie that "wealth trickles down" and that by allowing the rich to keep getting richer, their lives will get better too.

  7. Find a portion of voting public that really hates another portion of the population. Exploit this hatred as much as possible to vote in candidates who can speak to this hatred but who's sole objective is the maintenance of the oligarchy/corrupt ruling class.

If the ruling party can do most of these things, they can be assured an almost uninterrupted period in power, provided that the unwashed masses don't get completely fed up with them and there's a revolution.

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    $\begingroup$ To stop them from being fed up, an opposing party should also exist that rallies for what the people want. Then whenever they come in power they screw things up and never really change anything, making the people want the original group back in charge. They could also collect information on other groups of unrest. $\endgroup$ – Necessity Dec 7 '16 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ So in other words, the real world, as it currently exists? $\endgroup$ – cobaltduck Jan 11 '17 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ @cobaltduck yes, except in this case, you are in the driver's seat, not someone else. $\endgroup$ – Green Jan 11 '17 at 20:14

Pick the people who pick the people

See to it that all officials come from one of a small group of parties, and be sure that the selection committees of those parties are ultimately chosen by those selection committees. Now host a club where the important members of those committees might relax without being bothered by people trying to get names before their committee.

Let the plebes vote however they want, Kang or Kodos doesn't matter, the deathray still gets built. Let the politicians scheme to get their names before a committee or to discredit their rivals, even hold elections to the committees so long as the candidates are vetted first. Good polling data would be essential to be able to offer plausible losers.

Work the people who do the work

A few people get elected, they look good making speeches. Some people get appointed, they are good at having opinions similar to the speech makers. A lot of the rest of the government passes paper, making reviews of reviews of studies of studies. As one might imagine many decisions of appointees are made by expert advice as read by a bureaucrat. Now if they get to talking the might see the power of unionizing, but anyone with a head on their shoulder (and planning to keep it there) will know that it might be taken as a coup if they directly use their power. This leads to small group meetings and training sessions provided by Government Works Professional Society. Whose board of directors are often retired from government service.

The mid-level workers get indoctrinated on how to save the nation from the follies of speech makers and their pawns. Some projects get lost in the shuffle or have critical flaws discovered while it turns out after reading source some previously rejected plans may be a good idea after all.


The Voting is a facade. Like a wrestling match the election results of already been decided long before the race begins. The whole election is only done to distract the people from the real issues. The president himself as a figurehead those who really have power as his cabinet which thanks to some laws that passed Remains the Same no matter who becomes president.

The legislative brach member can be bullied into following whatever the cabinet decides either by threat of violence or black mail.


Convince the leaders of the major parties to arrange the election results.

An historical example of the Voting Is A Façade expressed in other answers: The Bourbon Restoration in Spain, in the last quarter of the XIXth century.

After the military coup that put the 1st Republic out of its misery, the leader of the Conservative party contacted the leader of the Liberal party and they agreed on the system of turnism. The system would consist in both major parties taking turns in the government.

When they decided it was the time to switch, the party in power would cede the government to the other peacefully and then the elections were rigged to give the new government enough votes to rule.


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