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As a strongman I want to rule my country with iron fist, but times have changed, this days west doesn't look too kindly on autocrats. Oh how I miss the good old days when I could hang people by their genitals just because they dared protesting for 40 hours work week on frivolous charges that they are commies.

But I've adapted. With little help from my secret police I crushed all the opposition parties and killed their leaders. In order to get west out of my case I engineered creation of the rainbow party. The opposition party where I gathered the most radical left elements of die-hard communists, Eco-terrorists, feminazis and the most hideous LGBT activists. I even fudged the results in the local elections for them to win majors in few of the most liberal cities.

It turned out their ideas was too much even for the people who detest me. I won the national elections fair and square.

How to keep this unelectable rainbow party popular enough in the future to prevent appearance of real opposition? With growing number of election observers and proliferation of smart-phones its getting harder to fudge election.

Few things about my country. We use first past the post system to make it difficult for any third party to emerge. The party who finishes first creates the government with prime-minister in charge, the runner up party becomes the opposition and gets the seat of the president which is symbolically head of the state but it doesn't have any real powers. (I love reading the interviews of our loony president with all the main-stream media, it makes Jeremy Corbyn look like Milton Fridman )

In order to get more seats I divided the country into voting districts according to their area, regardless of the population. And if somebody complains that their vote is worth 1/5 of the vote elsewhere, well they are free to move if they wish so.

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    $\begingroup$ You are a sly one farnaz. I think this scheme might be self sustaining. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jun 25 '17 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ Stars the question to retain answers for future ... "purposes" O:) $\endgroup$ – paracetamol Jun 25 '17 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ Post a question on Stack Exchange lampooning the situation. $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jun 25 '17 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ Note that it works wonders ...if and only if you can deliver a decent economy, even after taking your cut. The reason you don't see it all over the place already, is that at the first serious downturn, either you really part with your yachts to feed the populace, or eventually they'll vote Satan on a platform of 'I will eat your babies' if it means booting you out of office. In almost all cases, oversight from the west isn't so picky that it isn't way safer to keep rigging the elections and making dangerous opponents 'disappear'. $\endgroup$ – Francesco Dondi Jun 25 '17 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ I thought the life-support was literal, like keeping a guy on life-support. Lol. $\endgroup$ – Malady Jun 26 '17 at 0:18

13 Answers 13

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Don't just permit one opposition party, have lots and lots of them.

The more they are, the more they will steal each other's votes. So thanks to the first-past-the-post system your party will come out as the strongest even if most people voted for other parties.

How do you keep the parties small? Money. Elections are won with campaign money. So structure your political campaign financing laws in a way that your party has a huge advantage and can out-spend all the other parties. Some suggestions:

  • Lots of subsidiaries from the state, based on past election results
  • Limit the maximum membership fee a party can take from their members
  • Make sure being a (paying!) member of your party has lots of advantages. It might be an (unofficial) requirement for getting a government job, for example.
  • Anyone who does any campaign activity in the name of a party must be paid minimum wage by that party. So parties can not make up for lack of money with unpaid volunteers.
  • Outlaw any private campaign donations (large campaign donations are just bribery, aren't they?)
  • But create a loophole which allows one party to donate unlimited money to another party. The reason for this will be apparent in the next paragraph.

If some of the parties start to emerge from the others and become a serious threat despite the lack of money, form some competing parties with roughly the same political direction to split their votes. So when there is an anti-famaz party which polls at 55%, form the true anti-famaz party, the famaz-must-go party and the stop-famazism-now party. Provide lots of funding for them and let them have heated public debates about just how the de-famazination of the country should be realized. If they all manage to get 10% of the anti-famaz vote, the original party is down to 25%, and your party wins the district with 45%.

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    $\begingroup$ Many great answers in this thread, I accepted yours because I couldn't stop laughing. $\endgroup$ – famaz Jun 26 '17 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ One potential downside of allowing cross-party money transfers: a few unrelated parties could conceivably grow sick enough of the status quo to pool resources under one candidate. $\endgroup$ – Joel Coehoorn Jun 26 '17 at 18:49
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The west doesn't like strongmen, but it loves manipulative bureaucrats

The first thing you need is a good solid establishment, a political class. The working classes work, they take pride in their work they don't want to get involved in politics, it's too expensive and time consuming. A political class evolves, sometimes they're in one party, sometimes they're in another. It doesn't really matter, they're all much the same people from the same group and background, wealthy people with time on their hands who benefit from nothing much changing. They like the status quo, they like a stable system.

Elections come and go, but it doesn't matter who gets elected, they're all drawn from the same group, sometimes a one party is in power, sometimes the other, though it can be hard to tell the difference.

Let the protesters have their little parties in the streets, the more the better, if they reach the point of being a weekend traffic hazard then rather than being supported by the people they will be resented. If you repress them they will unite and risk becoming a critical mass, if you allow every single group to have their own protest about their own fringe issues it'll never build to a point of critical mass. The more the merrier.

Through it all you continue to wield power, not as a strongman, but as a token administrator, head of the civil service or some other similar position. Out of sight of the world, in the position through which all political acts must pass. Running the country but never being seen to do so.

Don't prop up a fake opposition, maintain two effectively indistinguishable parties.

Remember small opposition parties divide the opposition vote, the more there are, the more ways the vote for that faction is divided. As a dominant party you want 3rd, 4th 5th parties. The more they schism the better

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  • $\begingroup$ you might want to add a note that you are satirizing the united states political system. i don't think it will be obvious to foreigners. $\endgroup$ – james turner Jun 26 '17 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesturner, actually the British one, but it applies to all two party fptp countries. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jun 26 '17 at 16:39
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Funding and professional organizers for the straw opposition.

  • You fictional country could make it slightly complicated to get onto the national ballot. Was it supporting signatures from 0.1% of the electorate and a seat in the provincial assembly, or supporting signatures from 0.1% of the electorate unless they have a seat in the provincial assembly? Why, that's spelled out clearly in the Clear and Democratic Elections Act of 1991, as amended in '98, '03 and '11. But don't miss the deadline, and remember, the signatures must be from potential voters, ordered by district.
  • And of course a party can't simply start handing out leaflets on the street. That requires a permit in according with section C of the Street Vendors Administrative Procedures Act, except that as a political party they don't have to pay the usual fee (and go to the usual office, they have to file elsewhere). Every December, for the next year.

Professional disorganizers for the real opposition.

  • Your fictional country passes a law that requires the internal organization of all political parties to follow democratic principles. No backroom deals and ward heelers. Then introduce some people with weird ideas, a minimum of administrative competence (see above) and a bit of time and money on their hands. Their cacophony will drown the amateur activists.
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    $\begingroup$ Administrative tricks, that's very clever. I'm not sure I'm getting the second one. Do you want me to send weirdos with too much time on their hand and crazy ideas to newly organized parties? $\endgroup$ – famaz Jun 25 '17 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ Long ago, Jimmy Carter was accused of donating to his black opponent's campaign to take votes away from his white opponent. $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jun 25 '17 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ @famaz, imagine a guy who pretends to believe in chemtrails. He shows up at every meeting of the new environmental movement, he volunteers to write down the minutes, he has a bunch of pals who will give modest donations, he knows somebody who can get them a meeting hall for low rent (so cheap that the donations are enough), so he is generally an useful fellow to have around. They can't do without him. But, well, chemtrails. Whenever he is around, conspiracy theories end up in the party platform. Sane people steer away. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jun 26 '17 at 4:37
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    $\begingroup$ @famaz Young parties are very vulnerable. Take the german pirate party, they started out ok in 2009 on a platform of government transparency and citizen privacy and laws fit for the digital age. They did well in the beginning. The few conspiracy loons drowned in the crowd. Then hitchhikers started coming in from 3 different directions 1) we need a full platform right now, even if nobody has a clue about anything besides our core platform 2) extreme right 3) extreme left. This opened the party to attacks and the initial success died down. They still get local seats because there's no 5% hurdle. $\endgroup$ – Sumyrda Jun 26 '17 at 7:20
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I'm going to take Fred's answer and tweak it a little:

Fudge the elections so that the Rainbows keep getting elected...but change where it occurs. If a place is getting a little uppity, let their elections change the local political landscape to the Rainbow side for a while.

As pockets of Rainbows pop up in various places, their hardcore supporters will continue to funnel money towards elections that support a Rainbow candidate, even if that candidate is running for an office half way across the country (this exists in the real world, check out where money was coming from for Jon Ossoff's 2017 campaign in Georgia). They'll be looking to get someone elected anywhere and will funnel their efforts towards likely prospects.

As the Rainbows get elected in those places and proceed to break all the fine china while redecorating, the locals will back off from that party again for a while and no amount of outside funding will change their minds. But in ten years they'll have forgotten again and turn back towards an alternative party.

And hey, if a viable 3rd party does show up, you can treat them the same way. Let them win a few seats here and there, but brand them as the wacky extremest conservatives who are out to abolish divorce and make Christianity the only legal religion.

Look at you, the Moderate Overlord: the candidate of calm amidst these two warring factions, bringing peace and stability to the country.

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This isn't fantasy, except for the fact that there's a single party. This is a fairly well-known system called managed democracy.

As you've established, the single-party plan is not really the safest approach, since it means that if you become unpopular, there's only one other game in town, so their votes simply become a measure of your own unpopularity, no matter how bad they are.

So the reply to the question is that the only way to maintain power in a 2-party system is to always seem the lesser of two evils, to the majority of voters: better the devil you know, many will say. It may also help to foster a fear that votes are being monitored and those who vote for the rainbow party will be blacklisted, especially if you can keep the majority of your citizenry at just the level of poverty where they are more concerned about their wellbeing and not losing their jobs, than they are about taking a stand: not so harsh as to incite rebellion, nor so soft as to allow the leisure to protest.

As a fantasy, such a 2-party system might make sense to a US reader, who will be accustomed to a two-party system, and may feel it to be the natural state of things, and it's also a little simpler to write about, since there are only two parties. But it's just not a secure option to someone wanting to retain power.

Vladislav Surkov is one of the masterminds who until recently maintained Russia's managed democracy, calling it "sovereign democracy": having multiple, small and manageable opposition parties in his pocket, to prevent the development of serious contenders.

http://varlamov.ru/347515.html - a famous photo-essay of his office, containing multiple telephones, each labelled with the name of an "opposition party" that he managed.

Further research around him, and Russia's managed/sovereign democracy in general, might give some good tidbits to help flesh out the verisimilitude of worldbuilding a managed democracy.

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Make them popular abroad. If they have such progressive causes they will be heroes to lefty mainstream media, which will attract donations and free publicity. Whenever they stop evil oil companies from drilling, or make gay pride march through conservative neighbourhood, it will bring them fame & fortune, NYT will put the brave opposition on their front-page, talk show hosts will fight for their interview how they bring progress in that backward bigoted country. With money from overseas donations, and free publicity from media and Hollywood they would be The opposition that gathers all the progressive causes together. Not to mention free concerts. If anyone challenges them they will be berated as capitalist stooges.

You should only wait and pick up bribes from every multi-national afraid they gonna face PR nightmare if they dare to stand them.

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Schedule a coup d'etat in the Rainbow Party. A group of militants denounces that the leadership of the party sold themselves to you or to big companies.

There is a scision into the Real Rainbow Party, but without enough time to gain adepts for the next elections. They just get a fair percentage, but you still win.

For the next elections, the Real Rainbow Party is as crazy as the original and they just get a few votes. Meanwhile, the Rainbow Party: Together for the Future has risen from the ashes as a Phoenix and they have a New and Better message. They win some votes but you still win.

Basically, you just keep your bribes and interferences to convert the opposition into a "political war" just for the power of the party, without worrying so much in obtaining the presidency.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm more afraid that their will be so low that another party will emerge. Moderate pragmatic leftist like social-democrats would defeat me. I want these radicals to crowd out any left wing party. $\endgroup$ – famaz Jun 25 '17 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ It's a risk. Perhaps the "new and renovated party" could attract those moderate pragmatic people before radicalizing. $\endgroup$ – Alberto Yagos Jun 26 '17 at 8:24
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1) Installing a few agents within the Rainbow Party would help to keep party ideologically pure.

2) Make extra entry barriers for new parties, like:

  • Each party that want to register for election, has to bring 1 m of signatures, unless it had at least 10% of votes in the previous election.

  • Do not allow independent candidates (to prevent a situation where third party use that way)

3) In order to provide proper pluralism provide this party with proper access to gov owned TV. So they also get their TV channel. Would entrench them properly, why no outsider could complain that there is no dissent opinion.

4) Will has a point - make them popular abroad. With limited luck you get foreigners subsidizing this show.

5) If you are able to cherry pick leaders, pick those who have sins that can be used for blackmail.

6) Gerrymander districts to provide extra polarization. Make a district around some Art college, club for homosexuals, etc. If the result are not good enough, attract proper people by lack enforcement of anti-drug law in that district.

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Your district sizing does a lot to give you and advantage in elections. Concentrate places of modern thinking (ie. universities, city-wide free Wi-Fi, etc) in few, high population density cities. The ones which may appeal the rainbow party would have less value votes. Keep rural areas conservative, uneducated, prey to your manipulation of old media such as radio and paper press. In small towns, agricultural or industrial. Invest in soccer fields and championships, and in booze. The ones more prone to vote you will have heavily weighted votes.

You still need voters though. You don't want to be that guy who got more senators but less actual voters. So you'll have to make yourself appealing enough. Make sure people with more acquisitive power are your voters, so that people sees them (and their loyalist values) as the right way to success. Make burocracy be very hierarchical, so that only loyal public workers get to the highest points of responsibility (and acquisitive power). Subsidize industry and agriculture to concentrate property. Etc.

Remember to give some breath for innovation. Someone has to design your death-rays. Identify potentially brilliant people at school level. At university level, give them grants to work at the same time they study in your loyalist companies, so that they have less time to think about freedom and things, and more money to spend in frivolities, and make their classmates envious.

Of course, keep the rainbow party ideals disappealing and antagonizing. Make sure you have some troublemakers with enough time and money to harass the well-thinking people, commit vandalic acts, and drug themselves, all in the name of the rainbow ideology. Infiltrate their media with radical, over-the-top spokespersons to alienate normal people.

Finally, although you wanted one rainbow party, I think that promoting atomization of opposition parties is a good strategy to make them weak. Subsidize new parties and make it making a new party easy enough for every guy with an oppinion to make their own flavour of the rainbow party instead of staying in the larger branch. At the same time, have your district sizing and rules to strengthen the results of the large parties (yours) against the smallers (first, the big rainbow party, and then all the others).

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You could start a war with another country, to stir up nationalist feelings: our nation is threatened, we must all pull together.

Or, you could just pray for luck. You could hope that the opposition party could be controlled by special interests, backstab the people's choice, and put such a corruption laden, out of touch, big money enamored candidate that enough of the nation would elect a looney instead.

And you could hope that the opposition party would become so obsessed with critiquing the looney, and stretch that critique to an utterly absurd level, that they would not reflect on their fundamental errors: that they were no longer serving the interests of the electorate, and never correct their errors, so that loonies would continue to be elected.

That's pretty farfetched, though. No one would believe it. You'd better start a war instead.

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Y'all amateurs, tsk, tsk...

Here at the Evil Lords Implementing Terror Exchange (E.L.I.T.E.), we are always partial to the subtle pleasure of infiltration. No one reaches the higher layers of the opposition machine that we have not planted, bought, or blackmailed. Send for our brochure now, and enjoy one election cycle of free mole training, courtesy of E.L.I.T.E.

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Personally I like the idea of being the silent person who has a seemly not powerful position but in reality runs the show. In the US there are two brothers where one always donates serious amounts of money to the Democratic Party and the other to the Republican.

Next best thing is as others mentioned having other useless parties that win perfunctory elections but spend way too much time idling their wheels without going nowhere slowly.

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Making sure the Rainbow's stay unelectabley crazy while fudging enough elections in their favor might just work.

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    $\begingroup$ If their numbers get too low some other party would appear. $\endgroup$ – famaz Jun 25 '17 at 15:31

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