So far in 2018... Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Egypt’s Abdul Fattah al-Sisi extended their presidencies through sham elections, China scrapped term limits to allow Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan bolstered his popularity with a military offensive in Syria. Even Nicolas Maduro, despite a crippling financial crisis, has maintained his grip on power in Venezuela.
The big question: Will that luck run out?
- Russia: Putin’s new term begins with outrage at home over a shopping mall fire, and a showdown with the West abroad.
- Egypt: Sisi’s popularity isn’t as rock solid as it once was, and Egypt is facing real security and economic challenges.
- China: He's been on a roll, but two thorns remain in Xi’s side: Kim Jong-un, and the prospect of a trade war with the U.S.
- Turkey: Erdogan must contend with polarized politics, and a potential insurgency or confrontation with the West in Syria.
- Venezuela: Maduro isn't too worried about losing rigged elections this spring, but he does seem concerned about dissent in the military.
The bottom line: All strongmen aren’t created equal — Maduro, for example, is on far less stable footing than Xi — but all five of these leaders have managed to systematically remove checks on their power. Despite the challenges they're facing, the year of the strongman looks likely to continue. — Dave Lawler
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