No matter how bad you think much of the Western worldâ€™s democratically elected leaders are, it could be way, way worse. As this list demonstrates, the world is peppered with many leaders who quite literally do as they please, controlling the military and media to such an extent that there is very little accountability. These makes for regimes that, to put it mildly, can be ridiculously irrational and unfair. So take a look and ask yourself if you would rather be in any of these countries led by these men, under whom you canâ€™t speak your mind or really live your own life.
9.Teodoro Obiang Nguema
Itâ€™s a good thing you donâ€™t live in Equatorial Guinea, otherwise youâ€™d be living under this guyâ€™s regime, and life would be hell. (If you do live in Equatorial Guinea: Iâ€™m so very sorry.) Our boy Nguema has been holding down the fort as president for 32 years now, so one could argue that heâ€™s pretty good at his job.
One would be wrong.
Heâ€™s been winning elections with 97 and 98% of the vote, which means either this guy is REALLY popular or heâ€™s cheating. Guess. He commits the requisite torture and killing that most of the entrants on this list have been accused of, but heâ€™s been doing it for a VERY long time. He also had the radio stations decree that heâ€™s a God. Yup. Heâ€™s that type of dude.
8. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Ahmadinejadâ€™s first order of business upon taking office in 2005 was undoing much of the moderate progress made by his predecessors and taking a hardline stance in favor of religious conservatism. In a subsequent election in 2009, he was accused by many of election fraud. The next year, he â€œurgedâ€ Iranian families to marry and begin having kids earlier, which probably disappointed more than a few people. He forced many academics with whom he didnâ€™t agree to retire or resign, regardless of age or standing. Oh, and he canâ€™t seem to stop making nuclear weapons, which is disconcerting.
7. Saparmurat Niyazov
Niyazovâ€™s death in 2006, allowed Turkmenistan to move forward, but the damage had been done by his sixteen years in power. To give you an idea of how crazy and egocentric this guy was, he would rename months after his family members, he built a gold-plated statue of himself that rotated 360 degrees every 24 hours so as to always face the sun. Lest the citizens of Turkmenistan figure out how crazy he is, he shut down all internet cafes and limited usage by all citizens. Also, doctors had to pledge their loyalty to the president, who inserted his name in the national anthem lyrics. Then he actually banned lip-synching at concerts, an act that is hard to argue with, crazy or not.
6. Hu Jintao
Jintao has been the president of China since March 2003. While some have seen him as progressive, the fact remains that he hasnâ€™t done things much differently, and in fact has come down even harder on Internet censorship than his predecessors. He has placed bans on covering certain topics, banned lowbrow reality TV (Iâ€™m with him on that one), and often prohibits entertainment on the premise that itâ€™s not â€œmorally correct,â€ a standard which he alone determines.
5. Islam Karimov
This Uzbekistani president has been in power since March of 1990, maintaining a track record of human rights violations and suppression. He declared Uzbekistanâ€™s independence, then rigged the election to give himself 86% of the vote, a number that actually seems kind of modest if youâ€™re going through all the trouble of rigging an election. In 2000, another election was held in which Karimov received 91.9% of the vote. When interviewed, the opposing candidate, Abdulhafiz Jalalov, freely admitted that he joined the race only for the sake of appearances and even voted for Karimov. Awesome.
4. Robert Mugabe
Mugabe has been the head of Zimbabwe as president since 1987, but held the position of prime minister since 1980. He has been accused during his tenure of suppressing the white minorities in his home country, as well as maintaining a culture of both corruption and suppression among both his citizens and their government. He has gone on record as comparing himself to Hitler, which always goes over well with the worldâ€™s media. Mugabeâ€™s private militia has been accused of murdering the wife of his political opponent, Dadirai Chipiro by cutting off her hands and feet, then burning her alive.
3. Than Shwe
Shwe stepped down from power in March of this year, but his damage has been done to the people of Myanmar (Burma). In 1992, Than Shwe elevated himself to commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces, and has had a stranglehold on the military ever since. Shweâ€™s reign hasnâ€™t been all terror, however. He has cracked down on governmental corruption, firing anyone he suspected of taking bribes. However, he continually suppressed a free and open press. Heâ€™s known to be humorless and serious at all times. When he hit the mandatory retirement age of 60, he did what anyone in his position would do. He extended it. He finally stepped down at 77.
2. Omar al-Bashir
Bashir is the president of the Sudan. Despite brokering a peace in the Second Sudanese Civil War, his reign has bore witness to almost 400,000 deaths from the conflict in Darfur. The International Criminal Court has accused al-Bashir of genocide and war crimes, though he has stood trial for neither. In 2010, the ICC found sufficient evidence against him and he could be arrested later this year or next. Heâ€™s also been found to have embezzled $9 billion from our dear, dear friends at Wikileaks.
1. Kim Jong Il
Itâ€™s time to get Il. Sure heâ€™s a bit of a whackjob who encourages his subjects to refer to him as â€œdear leaderâ€ or â€œour father,â€ but thatâ€™s not the troubling part. Well, it may be troubling for North Koreans, but that really doesnâ€™t affect those outside his domain. What does affect us is the fact that his brand of crazy comes hand-in-hand with an enormous amount of power. He has assembled a nuclear arsenal and currently maintains the fourth-largest standing army in the world.
He has adopted a cult of personality around himself and has persuaded schools and educators to speak of him in an almost Godlike fashion. Not a great sign from a man who has his finger on the button.
Heâ€™s also an avid film fan who has gone on record as saying among his favorite films are the Friday the 13th series, Rambo, and Godzilla. Clearly, Kim is a 13 year-old boy in disguise.