One of the benefits of having served in the CIA’s clandestine service is that this author was afforded the opportunity to see the world — and not just the ‘civilized’ democratic world.  Often, America’s intelligence professionals are sent off to far away dictatorships and closed authoritarian states.  Such experiences provide the observant operations officer with a plethora of examples of how to run a government without the pesky interference of ‘the people.’

However, even the most authoritarian states these days must often provide the veneer of democratic legitimacy in order to sell themselves, both to their own people and internationally.  These leaders and states have consequently shown remarkable innovation in developing various techniques that aid in such efforts.  Your conscientious author has tried to compile here some of those techniques, as a sort of guidebook — if you will — on winning and holding unrivaled and unchallenged power.  You must promise though, dear reader, that you will only use these techniques for benign purposes.

Eliminate rivals

First, it is easy to win an election if you are the only one running.  If all other comers are terrified of harassment, imprisonment, physical suffering, or even death, then chances are you will find yourself pleasantly unchallenged.  You are then free to stroll through the election like a white knight — the only one brave enough to defend your people and the nation.  “What a hero!” they shall proclaim.

Establish a cult of personality

Once you have cleared the decks of real challengers (maybe you are allowing a few of the token variety, to bestow some electoral legitimacy to your win), you need to establish for yourself a suitable cult following.  This should be replete with iconography, an heroic or even deified backstory, legends, symbols, devout followers, and possibly even, as required, songs and movies devoted to your life.  Really, you are only limited by your imagination here.  The more you can fashion yourself a divine ruler, the harder it will be to reject you.  Everyone loves a god!

Harness the enemy

What’s the best way to endear yourself to the people, and to convince them that you are indispensable to the good of the nation?  You must make them fear national existence without you.  The best way to do that is to present a lurking, menacing, hated enemy at the gates, ready to conquer the nation.  Against such an enemy, you will act as the Great Savior.  After all, if you were to fail to keep or assume leadership of the country, God only knows how soon the enemy would storm the country and take over.  The horror!  Your people must understand that they need you, that without you, they are in mortal danger.