Why dictators need ‘orderly transitions’


Ever wondered why most dictators or authoritarian leaders who have overstayed their welcome refuse to leave their positions immediately despite widespread protests?

Invariably, they often need to put in place an “orderly transition”, which can range from a few months to even a year.

Why is this so?

– they need to sort out their family fortune, transfer money out of overseas bank accounts before they get frozen, etc and they need to find a safe haven for their wealth.

From the Telegraph:

The intelligence source suggested that 82-year-old Mubarak may have learnt the lesson of his fellow dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the former president of Tunisia, who was forced with his family into a hasty exile in Saudi Arabia while Swiss authorities froze the family’s bank accounts.

A US official told The Sunday Telegraph: “There’s no doubt that there will have been some frantic financial activity behind the scenes. They can lose the homes and some of the bank accounts, but they will have wanted to get the gold bars and other investments to safe quarters.”

The Mubaraks are understood to have wanted to shift assets to Gulf states where they have considerable investments already – and, crucially, friendly relations. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have frequently been mentioned as likely final destinations for Mr Mubarak and possibly his family.

They also need to protect the business interests of their family. The relatives also need time to cash out.

From the Telegraph again:

Intelligence sources indicate that the Mubarak fortune may be most easily traced via the business dealings of Gamal Mubarak, 47.

He once lived in a six-storey house in Belgravia in central London and worked in banking before setting up an investment and consulting firm in London. He resigned as a director of the company 10 years ago.

The president made his two sons the “go to” men for any companies that sought to do business in Egypt.

Kefaya, an opposition coalition that emerged before the 2005 elections to oppose the then president and his plans to transfer power to Gamal, released a lengthy investigation into nepotism, corruption and abuse of power by the ex-president and his two sons.

It said it was routine for businesses to be required to hand a cut – between 20 to 50 per cent – to Gamal or Alaa simply to set up shop. Favoured entrepreneurs who worked with the brothers were given virtual monopolies in return.

Arwa Hassan, a Middle East specialist for the anti-corruption group Transparency International, said Gamal appeared to be at the centre of the Mubarak family’s finances. Miss Hassan said: “It was really common for Gamal Mubarak to approach a successful business and say, make me a partner in your business. I’ve heard this from various sources. I don’t think it was a secret.”

– they need to find friendly faces to take over and preserve economic policies that favour the super-rich and their crony corporations. Such friendly successors would help to water down the radical reforms and workers’ rights demanded by the people.

– they need to strike deals with their successors to ensure they will not be prosecuted for corruption, torture and other human right abuses.

– they need time to remove and shred incriminating files and other evidence that would expose them to future prosecution. Like the public-spirited pro-democracy supporters in Tahrir Square clearing up the rubbish, dictators too need time to clear up their own mess of potentially incriminating documents:

– they need to find a country that is willing to provide them with a safe haven, away from the long arms of international law.

– they have to find a successor who is acceptable to powerful foreign backers, who have used their country to further their own strategic interests.

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15 Feb 2011 11.21pm

ha2 hopefully our Mama Rosmah didnt take a leaf out of Mrs Mubarak textbok. Good for her if she is sincere. Ask Jaafar,.. on NS how much is one nasi mamak.

14 Feb 2011 4.29pm

All authoritarian rulers and dictators the world over are the same – they are there to enrich themselves.

Human nature is selfish and the poor masses please have some sense that you have to (stand up and be counted) to have your share of resources, no elite will care whether you live or die.

semuanya OK kot
semuanya OK kot
14 Feb 2011 1.52pm

All past and present tyrants are supported – and sometimes appointed – by the Evil empire for the benefit of banksters of the West, including their “offshore” banks. As confirmation, as yourself why the empire produces so much poisonous but empty condemnation of Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, China. In your own neighbourhood, it was the best friend of Suharto (Sukarno was too independent) and Marcos. It is the largest source of armaments by far, and usually sells to both sides of many regional conflicts. All this requires tyrants, politicians and generals fanning fear and hate.

14 Feb 2011 12.23pm

this wandererAUS talk as if it is so easy.,.first of all i am not supporter of dr m or bn…whatever you quotes is easy to said rather than to implement wat spore did..,i think malaysia can achieved all this if all rakyats are willing to fork out the cash?come on dont be a hypocrites.,even for slight increment on water n oil the rakyats are making noise.,do you even know how much the cost of using utilities plus all those taxes in spore…so pls do some research before you compare spore n malaysia..and also pls tell me where in the world… Read more »

LC Teh
13 Feb 2011 4.08pm


13 Feb 2011 3.39pm

(Authoritarian leaders) are a breed of their own…humbleness and self-criticism are never in their vocabulary. We have one of our own…. His greatest achievement was to compare his achievements to our silent achiever neighbor. Singapore gags citizens’ criticism, says Dr M… Tun you said that Singapore gags citizen criticism. Now if you were talking at a close door meeting with UMNO cawangan Hutan Melintang then I can understand that you are just trying to impress the cawangan members with your knowledge of what Singapore citizens can and cannot do – though I suspect that the same cawangan members would rather… Read more »

13 Feb 2011 3.14pm

For dictator, history lesson are for other to learn.
In Romania, Nicolae Ceauşescu doesn’t expect “his” military execute him in a harsh manners.

Andrew I
Andrew I
13 Feb 2011 3.04pm

“they need to find a country that is willing to provide them with a safe haven, away from the long arms of international law.”

With all that money, you should get yourself an island in the sun. You can pass your own laws, have your own private army and do as you please in your little kingdom.

13 Feb 2011 3.00pm

Yes, yes…..the dictators need time to “clean house” because of their HIGH profile status.
But the “average Joe” in a similar circumstance would have been dragged / arrested by the police with only the clothes on their back. How ironic?

Dictators would have usurped millions of people and still escape to political asylums in safe countries. They always seem to disappear before the fall. Later, we see them with bodyguards in luxury villas enjoying their retirement. Especially the American endorsed dictators.