When it comes to securing a second term in power, Egypt’s president is leaving little to chance. Potential rivals in the March election have been sidelined, jailed or threatened with prosecution. The news media is largely in his pocket. On polling day, Egyptians will have a choice between President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and one of his most ardent supporters — an obscure politician drafted at the 11th hour to avoid the embarrassment of a one-horse race. As he cruises toward victory, Mr. Sisi need not worry either about foreign censure: President Trump has hailed the Egyptian leader as a “fantastic guy,” and most other Western leaders have been largely silent. Across the world, autocratic leaders are engaging in increasingly brazen behavior — rigging votes, muzzling the press and persecuting opponents — as they dispense with even a fig leaf of democratic practice once offered to placate the United States or gain international legitimacy. The global tide is driven by a bewildering range of factors, including the surge of populism in Europe, waves of migration, and economic inequality. And leaders of countries like Egypt, which had long been sensitive to Washington’s influence, know they run little risk of rebuke from an American president who has largely abandoned the promotion of human rights and democracy in favor of his narrow “America First” agenda.
In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled the country for 33 years, has led a sweeping crackdown on opponents before elections this summer. In November, Mr. Trump flashed a big thumbs-up as he posed for a photo with Mr. Hun Sen, who later praised the American president for what he called his lack of interest in human rights.
In Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernández was inaugurated for a second term on Saturday amid uproar from opposition figures who accused him of rigging the vote, and despite calls for a new election from the Organization of American States. Washington ignored the O.A.S. findings, with the American chargé d’affaires offering only tepid statements calling on all sides to behave peacefully.
And the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, who was once forced to surrender power for four years to respect his Constitution, has barred the main opposition challenger in the March election, virtually assuring that he will win a fourth term. Mr. Trump has repeatedly expressed his desires for closer ties with Mr. Putin.