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The World's Longest-Ruling Dictators

With civil unrest spreading from the Middle East to other countries around the world with the help of social networking, it seems that no authoritarian ruler is safe. With this in mind, the question is who's next?

The sudden disintegration of the multi-decade rule of leaders like Hosni Mubarak suggests that other long-standing dictators could go.

Although Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and North Korea's Kim Jong Il draw the world's attention, the list of rulers considered to be dictators is a long one.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, dictators generally hold complete autocratic control, often hoarding wealth for themselves while leaving little for their people. Inflation, the rising cost of food, wealth disparities and poor standards of living have been at the heart of unrest in the Middle East, and these leaders have been the focus of blame.

To illustrate how dictators often enrich themselves at the expense of their people, gross domestic produce (GDP) at purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita is compared to each country's Human Development Index (HDI) rank and score.

GDP PPP per capita reflects what the average wealth of a country's populace should be, assuming that wealth is evenly distributed.

The United Nations Development Program's HDI statistics reflect the average living conditions and future prospects of a country's populace. It is comprised of average life expectancy, access to education and gross national income (GNI) per capita of each country.

Large discrepencies between GDP per capita and HDI statistics demonstrate how a dictatorship has affected the general populace and is also indicative of whether a leader can retain power.

Also included is information from Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which measures and ranks the perceived level of corruption in a country, based upon surveys of the populace.

So, which dictators have been in power the longest and how have their economies fared under their rule? Click ahead for the list.

By Winston Woo
Posted 18 Mar 2011

*Country-by-country data based on International Monetary Fund World Economic Database, October 2010; United Nations Development Program's Human Development Index; Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

Photo: Viktor Drachev | AFP | Getty Images