A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military. Like any dictatorship, a military dictatorship may be official or unofficial, and as a result may not actually qualify as stratocratic. Mixed forms also exist, where the military exerts a very strong influence without being entirely dominant.
Military dictatorships can be contrasted with other forms of dictatorship. For example, in most current and historical Communist states, the center of power rests among civilian party officials, and very careful measures (such as political commissars and frequent rotations) are taken to prevent the military from exercising independent authority.
Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East have been common areas for military dictatorships. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the military often has more cohesion and institutional structure than most of the civilian institutions of society.
The typical military dictatorship in Latin America was ruled by a junta (derived from a Spanish word which can be translated as "conference" or "board"), or a committee composed of several officers, often from the military's most senior leadership, but in other cases less senior, as evidenced by the term colonels' regime, where the military leaders remained loyal to the previous regime. Other military dictatorships are entirely in the hands of a single officer, sometimes called a caudillo, usually the senior army commander. In either case, the chairman of the junta or the single commander may often personally assume office as head of state.
In the Middle East and Africa, military governments more often came to be led by a single powerful person, and were autocracies in addition to military dictatorships. Leaders like Idi Amin, Sani Abacha, Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Gamal Abdul Nasser worked to develop a personality cult and became the face of the nation inside and outside their countries.
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