Kor: You of the Federation... you are much like us. Kirk: We're nothing like you! We're a democratic people. Kor: Come now, I'm not referring to minor ideological differences. I mean that we are similar as a species. Here we are on a planet of sheep. Tigers, hunters, predators... killers. And it is precisely that which makes us great.
In a story that involves a war between two different countries, groups, organizations, or factions, a common way of making the goodies better and the baddies worse is to give both sides certain stereotypical governments or administrative forms.
The good guys are often democrat members of The Federation, or at least led by some sort of council. If there is a monarch, she (it's usually a queen or princess) will always listen to her advisers and, if she has a veto, would never dream of overruling the prime minister or chief commander. The Supporting Leader is often a member of this council. In some cases, the council's commitment to consensus rule may get in the way of taking action against the villains; this can provide drama for an episode, as the heroes have to take matters into their own hands and act without the approval of their bosses.
The villains, on the other hand, will usually be a totalitarian dictatorship led by a single supreme king or emperor. He (it's usually a he) may have a council of advisers, but with the exception of The Starscream, none of them are in any doubt as to who is really the boss. If there is such a council, it will be hand-picked by the Big Bad rather than being elected or passing some sort of qualification test, and will often include The Dragon.
This trope probably dates back to popular portrayals of the American Revolution. This revolution is commonly portrayed as an example of brave Americans fighting for democracy and freedom from the tyrannical British monarchy. note Although, ironically, the war was a subversion of this trope, seeing as both sides were democratic: Britain was a constitutional monarchy, remember.
The French Revolution is also portrayed like this at times, through the revolutionaries are more likely to be shown as Well Intentioned Extremists or He Who Fights Monsters. In this case it is much nearer the truth: the French monarchy was a corrupt, bankrupt mess and the early revolutionaries were both rational and concerned with ordinary Frenchmen. Of course, it went From Bad to Worse.
Or it might go even further back to The Roman Republic and its wars against various monarchies or the Greek city-states fighting the Persian Empire. Even though they were decidedly non-democratic by modern standards, they were held up as (admittedly flawed) models by the American Founding Fathers and, earlier, Machiavelli. Remember the old line about winners writing history.
May be a case of Writer on Board, but if it is, it is not always deliberate. See also The Empire, The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified and Disaster Democracy. When the latter tries to pose as the former, it's a People's Republic of Tyranny.
Note: When editing this page, for the love of God, please don't add examples from Real Life. History is Written By The Victors, so of course every war is going to be portrayed like this, making it Truth in Television for people in the winning country and Reality Is Unrealistic for people in the losing country. This includes World War II.
Contrast Democracy Is Bad and People's Republic of Tyranny. That trope and this one here are on opposing ends of the Romanticism Versus Enlightenment match.
While the protagonists of Pumpkin Scissors are part of The Empire, one gets the impression that this trope still applies in respect to them and the enemy nation of the Republic of Frost.
It's not entirely clear whether Code Geass subverts or plays this straight, the antagonists for most of the series are the Brittanian Empire, and the Black Knights form the United States of Japan and United Federation of Nations. But earlier the EU was the only major power that was democratic and was so weak it was barely even mentioned.
Subverted in Zoids Chaotic Century, where a Republic and Empire are at war, but neither side is portrayed as particularly villainous. (besides a few General Ripper types and an Evil Chancellor on the Empire side).
Subverted in Legend of the Galactic Heroes. The protagonists are, respectively, an officer in The Federation's navy and a nobleman of The Empire. As the series goes on, we get to see both civilizations from the point of view of both characters, how each system has its own advantages and disadvantages, and how it ultimately boils down to what people are running them.
In case of The Federation, the viewer sort of expects The Empire not to be a bowl of peaches, but not the democratic alliance of former freedom fighters...
Completely inverted in the old OVA series Genesis Survivor Gaiarth; the sparse backstory had an Empire and a Republic destroy each other in a cataclysmic war, but it's clearly stated that it was the Empire who was noble and the Republic who was villainous.
Subverted in Magic Knight Rayearth. Autozam is one of the invading countries. But unlike Chizeta and Fahren, which are monarchies, Autozam has a president. Autozam's representative, Eagle Vision (who is the president's son), comes closest to succeeding in becoming Pillar. And while he is an antagonist, he is certainly not a villain. A country having a president with a son named Eagle Vision- Does This Remind You of Anything????
Outlaw Star has a subversion in the Ctarl-Ctarl Empire. Although they try to present themselves as an empire expanding into "Human" space, most people just view them as annoying.
Done so many times in comics during the early Cold War.
When Captain Marvel overthrows an evil monarch in that era he always had a democracy set up.
Star Wars involves heroic rebels fighting to restore the Republic from the iron grip of the Emperor.
The Prequel Trilogy is an arguable subversion, as the benign Galactic Republic is turned into the evil Empire not through a military coup but by popular vote. The vote was masterminded by Palpatine's Evil Plan, but it was still approved by the Senate. Moreover, the Republic itself is shown to be massively corrupt and spectacularly weak; the first two movies revolve around it initially having less military might than a shipping company that had been granted a legal monopoly.
Though by the Legacy comics there's two Empires, the Fel Empire from the start allied with the Sith and overthrew the Galactic Alliance. But when that was done the Sith turned against the Fel Empire so they form a shakily alliance with the Galactic Alliance against the Sith.
The Matrix has the humans being led by a council of elders and the machines by a single, huge AI.
Granted, the Expanded Universe raises some questions regarding the matter of which side are the good guys. Before the machines took over, humanity is clearly presented as the bigger monsters. The worst the machines ever did was winning a war that was started by the humans in the first place, and using humans as makeshift batteries, because they had no other power source (since the humans intentionally blocked out the sun).
An odd counterexample is 300, in which the protagonists are a constitutional monarchy, but the Senate are shown as corrupt and constraining on the heroic king, who kills unarmed messengers when he gets angry. Women are granted some respect—in the film the Queen, at least, is not only allowed but encouraged to debate with men—because "Only Spartan women give birth to real men," which is a paraphrase of a real Spartan quote. By contrast, The Persian Empire is a multiracial, decadent tyranny.
Though this is a case of an unreliable narrator speaking to a group of soldiers before battle. Belittling the enemy as a bunch of wishy-washy pansies, praising your violent and decisive king, and mocking politicians is a good way to rile them up. Why would the narrator speak of anything positive regarding the Persians?
In Gladiator, the good guys are hoping to turn the Roman Empire back into a Republic by giving more power to the Senate. The bad guy wants to get rid of the Senate altogether (Historically speaking, no one planned to make Rome a republic again, especially since the last five emperors had been both good and competent guys, and the Republic was two centuries dead at that point). In real life the main villain enjoyed a 15-year rule (plus a few years co-ruling with his father) and was rather well-liked, though historians mark his reign as the start of Rome's decline.
The Star of the Guardians series by Margaret Weis inverts this, with the justification that its royal family are genetically engineered to be good rulers (with Psychic Powers as well), and the republicans are Well-Intentioned ExtremistUnwitting Pawns, whose "democracy" is corrupt due to elections being invariably won by whoever spent the most on advertising (but the worst thing about them is the Unwitting Pawn thing).
This sort of falls apart since it's established early on that the last "good ruler" was a weak man who couldn't make a decision to save his life, while President Robes doesn't seem to spend much time caring about personal power. Not to mention these supposed Epitomes of humanity seem to break their vows of chastity with frightening regularity, only to produce unwanted bastards that invariably plot to kill them.
Partly subverted in Legend of Galactic Heroes, as the Galactic Empire and Free Planets Alliance are both initially corrupt. After Reinhard von Lohengramm takes charge, it's the autocratic empire that's reforming, and the Free Planets Alliance that is increasingly repressive.
The biggest irony is that despite being less populated and smaller than the Empire, the Alliance has fought it to a standstill for 150 years, and even with its corrupt elite, its GDP by capita was nearly twice as big as the Empire. Reinhart himself admit that if the Alliance'es idealists had not been blocked by a glass ceiling, he would not have been able to beat them. It's actually the whole reason of Yang loyalty toward the Alliance: he claims repeatedly that the worst democraty is still better that the best dictatorship
Subverted in the CoDominium series, were the resistance often want republican forms of government, but often use violent and unethical methods to achieve their goals, or end up being hypocrites. True Empires (led by a constitutional monarchy) are often portrayed as positive (or at least not as malevolent).
Well, sort of; In the Warworld series, the First Empire fell as much from corruption and factionalism as from the Sauron Rebellion, and the Second Empire is portrayed as fanatical Well Intentioned Extremists in King David's Spaceship and described as being in a slow decline in The Gripping Hand.
The Honor Harrington series has made enough use of this trope that depending on the work it's been played straight, subverted, and averted.
It starts with the Star Kingdom of Manticore (a constitutional monarchy) against the People's Republic of Haven (oligarchy posing as a republic). And goes to the Star Empire of Manticore and the Republic Of Haven in an alliance against the Solarian League.
Patrick Tilley's Amtrak Wars features the despotic First Family leading the Amtrak Federation against the tribes of Mutes.
Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy has both straight (but weird) examples and aversions:
The Edenists, being telepaths, form a Hive Mind whenever anything needs to be put to a vote.
The best-organized baddies are dictatorships, (led by Al Capone and a Satanist).
However, the Kulu Kingdom takes its responsibility to its subjects very seriously. Likewise its offshoot, Tranquillity.
Before the war, Norfolk was a borderline case: Its aristocracy was oppressive, but it's implied that the only reform necessary is for the government to pay for dissidents' tickets off-world (which would also be cheaper than running the gulags). (Well, the only political reform necessary; there's also the matter of its backward health and education systems.)
Many books in the Star Wars Expanded Universe use this trope just as much as the movies did, but not all. Timothy Zahn's novels tend to feature an Empire that's, well, more complex than Black and White Morality. In the Hand Of Thrawn duology, it's not evil at all, and the Supreme Commander is trying to make peace with the New Republic. Problem is, there are some Imperials who refuse to let that happen...
As of the current Fate Of The Jedi series, the Imperial Remnant (which has recently decided to start calling itself "The Empire" again, though most people don't) is led by Chief of State Jagged Fel, who was imposed on the Empire against its will during the peace after the previous series. Fel, as the dashing, handsome young leader of the Galactic Alliance's biggest ally (and fiance to Jaina Solo), is a prominent socialite on Coruscant and is constantly harassed by the paparazzi. The Moffs aren't particularly happy about the above situation. Amusingly, Fel comes off as less autocratic than the head of the supposedly democratic Galactic Alliance (itself headed by an appointed unelected Chief of State, NatasiDaala).
Also worth mentioning: the New Republic was really a military junta for a couple years after Endor. Then they took Coruscant in Wedge's Gamble and started setting their democracy up.
Swedish SF author Anders Blixt's novel Iskriget both uses and subverts this trope. Yes, the novel's empire is an authoritarian regime, but its officials are frequently decent people who approve of the rule of law. On the other hand, the republican rebels espouse democratic ideals, but some of them turn out to be ruthless militants.
Whilst Star Trek fits this on the surface, with the democratic Federation fighting against the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Empire and the like, it fails on closer inspection. The Klingon Empire is ruled by the High Council (and later acquires a clone of the original emperor as a figurehead, reinstating the office as a moral bulwark), the Romulan Empire appears to be ruled by the Senate rather than any individual (depending on the episode: the Praetor seems to be able to overrule the Senate at times), the Cardassian Union was theoretically ruled by the toothless civilian Detapa Council (though the Obsidian Order and the Central Command had all the power) until eventually Dukat claims sole leadership and has it join with the Dominion. The Borg, whilst they do have a queen, call her the "One who is Many" in their collective.
The Klingon High Council is not a democratic body, though, it is more like the government in a feudal society rather than a democratic one. The members of the Klingon High Council are not elected, they are members of powerful houses that are based on hereditary succession. So while the Klingon Empire isn't quite a total dictatorship with all the power in the hands of one person, it is oligarchical enough to count as The Empire. Also according to the Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha, the Romulan Senate represents an oligarchy rather than a majority of the people, not to mention they have a caste system.
The Detapa Council came into power after the Central Command and Obsidian Order were SEVERELY weakened by a misguided attack on Dominion space, led by a spy posing as a Romulan. Before that, they were absolutely ruled by the Central Command. The Obsidian Order wasn't SUPPOSED to have ships, originally. They built them as part of the attempted attack.
The place where Star Trek really fits this is in the Mirror Universe, where the benevolent Federation is replaced by the evil Terran Empire.
Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis normally follows this trope to a T, but subverts it with the Asurans, antagonists who are led by a council. This because they were trying to emulate the Ancients, who are generally good. Minor subversion is the council of the humans of the Pegasus Galaxy introduced in season 5 of Atlantis, but they were more dickish than evil.
Rome. Unsurprising given its setting is quite literally Ancient Rome, but much of the fighting in the first and second seasons is the attempt to displace the Caesars and restore the Republic as it existed immediately prior.
The Dalek Empire, from Doctor Who hews to this trope so closely, they call themselves an empire despite being a parliamentary democracy largely because, well, they're evil.
There's the "Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire", though it's more of a place where the evil Jagrafess permits humanity to live and be manipulated by the media as sheep rather than an actual human empire. The Doctor's comments at the beginning of the story however suggest it's meant to be an aversion of the "evil empire" trope, that's just been hoodwinked by the Jagrafess.
The eleventh Doctor meets one Emperor of some iteration of this, he's a pretty decent guy and rather reluctant in his role.
Subverted in Disgaea. Most Netherworlds appear to be two or three-branched Republics — and horribly dysfunctional ones at that. The executive branch (Overlords) is composed of people constantly trying to kill each other for their position (and sometimes, just for the hell of it). The Senate is a rabble of drunken, bribe-hungry factions more concerned with barring the other guy than actually paying attention to what they're voting on. As for the Judicial system, it says a good deal when the judge doesn't even care that the convicted party isn't the one they actually charged with the crime.
Given that Felonies are considered badges of honor in the Netherworld, it's probable that Impersonating a Felon is probably a Felony in and of itself, and as such would be seen as a good thing. So they would figure that anyone with the skill, power, guts, or savvy to take someone else's felony conviction probably deserves it. These areNetherworlds we're talking about, after all.
Tales Of The Abyss subverts this. Neither the kingdom of Kimlasca-Lanvaldear nor the empire of Malkuth is evil (the party members consist of people from both, including the princess of Kimlasca, the son of a duke from the same country, and a colonel in Malkuth's military). But they still go to war with each other because of a prophecy from the world's religion... However, it turns out that the founder of said religion, and the "aggregate sentience" being worshipped in it, both want humanity to break away from this prophecy since it will eventually lead to the world's destruction.
Semi-inverted. The Emperor of Malkuth is a good ruler who is popular with his subjects... and the King of Kimlasca-Lanvaldear has good intentions, but is ultimately incompetent (as is his brother-in-law, the protagonist's father).
Tales Of Vesperia strongly subverts it. The Guild Union is set up early on as a free and democratic contrast with the Empire, but ultimately both are portrayed as fundamentally good institutions plagued by corrupt officials.
Shining Force III features the Republic of Aspinia (which has a king) and the Empire of Destonia. Guess which one's evil!
A republic with a king isn't such a strange idea, depending on how powerful the king is; a state with a figurehead monarch will tend to function as a republic in practice, but since the term "republic" tends to connote the absence of any kind of monarch it will rarely if ever be called that in Real Life.
It's actually averted in Shining Force III. On disc I, (the only disc that came to the U.S.) you play as the Republic against the Empire and the Cultists. On disc II, you play as the Empire against the Republic and the Cultists. Disc III is when everyone realizes that the Cultists are the only real bad guys and go against them.
Played straight as an arrow in Knights of the Old Republic, with Darth Malak as the absolute authority over the evil Sith Empire and the Dark Jedi themselves battling the Senate-controlled Republic and the Council-ruled Jedi.
Played with in Mass Effect. Asari governments tend to be loose, accommodating republics and turians are governed under an autocratic empire, but members of both species seem to be satisfied with their leadership. (It helps that the turian government is an meritocracy rather than a garden-variety dictatorship.) However, come Mass Effect 3 humanity is supported by the turians from the beginning. Meanwhile, the asari spend most of the war with their heads in the sand, keeping a critical advantage laying around until too late to use. Played straight with the Batarian Hegemony, however, which is a straightforward totalitarian regime considered a rogue state by the Citadel, and as per the "Leviathan" DLC had evidence of the Reapers' existence twenty years ago and kept it secret so they'd be the only ones to benefit.
Played straight story-wise in Lusternia with the Holy Principality of New Celest vs the Grand Empire of Magnagora, though it's more a case of "good Vestigial Empire, evil Empire". Averted completely in practice thanks to Gameplay and Story Segregation, though - both cities are governed by a democratic council (the Star Council for Celest and the Iron Council for Magnagora).
The Command And Conquer Tiberian Series has the heroic GDI fighting for freedom and democracy against the evil Brotherhood of Nod, led only by Kane. But it's a subversion: GDI is really a military arm of the United Nations and by the third game bears a resemblance to a dictatorship, if a fairly benevolent one.
Oddly enough, in The Legend Of Zelda Twilight Princess, the titular princess, Midna, was chosen over Zant in a democratic monarchy. As in, the kings and princesses (but no queens) are elected directly by the people.
Elective monarchy sounds like an odd concept, but there are Real Life examples.
Actually in some countries, such as medieval Spain, hereditary monarchy was seen as a remedy for a particularly unpleasant effect of the Visigoths' elective monarchy: the unavoidable period of scheming, plotting and backstabbing that would invariably happen after the old king's death.
That's not how Midna came to power. Zant expected to be made ruler after the death of the king because he'd had a hand in the Twilight Realm's affairs for years whereas Midna was a young, spoiled princess with no political experience. But, because the TR is not democratic, she was given the throne instead. Note, however, that Zant was a hair away from fully psychotic, whereas Midna, though a bitch, did intend to rule the TR as well as she could.
Though we don't ever see what actually happens afterwards (Invisible War? What's that?), the democracies (and for that matter dictatorships) of the world are corrupted and failing in Deus Ex. The "best" ending is probably the one where your character becomes the cybernetic God-Emperor of humanity.
"Best" meaning it doesn't involve throwing the baby out with the bathwater or leaving the world under a shadowy cabal.
The spiritual successor Bet On Soldier takes this even further: aside from keeping the war going, the Syndicate are also sponsoring one-on-one deathmatches between enemy combatants they broadcast across the entire world for even more profit.
Also subverted in the freeware RPG Last Scenario. You start out working for the Republic, and are sent on a mission to stop The Empire. But it turns out the Emperor isn't so bad, and your mission just set up a much worse ruler to take over. So you take part in a civil war to save the Empire, at which point your own Republic allies show up to get in your way. While their army is busy with that, the Republic itself is conquered by the evil Kingdom, who started the whole thing with a False Flag Operation.
Yggdra Unionthrows this one for a loop. The Fantasinian good guys have a hereditary Monarchy, who kicks off the game by dying, killed by the hostile Bronquian Empire, whose present Emperor overthrew the last one in a bloody Coup De'tat. As the story goes on and a counter-invasion is launched, Grey and Grey Morality kicks in to full effect as you find out the Empire and its generals are not inherently evil people.
The final nail in this trope's coffin for this series is the prequel Blaze Union, the canonical ending of whichshows the Coup as a good thing.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn presents a bit of an inversion with Begnion. While it is most definitely an Empire (Empress and all), it does have some of the trappings of a Republic (Senators and all). But the empress is good, and the senators are evil.
Played with in Fallout New Vegas, the NCR is generally good organization but wealthy individuals like Brahmin barons and hawkish military personnel now run the NCR Senate and Presidency, leading to excessive bureaucracy, which in turn has led to the government becoming slow and ineffecient. Plus same barons have created an underclass as ghouls and super mutants, once valued citizens, are now openly bigotted against (think the civil rights movement in reverse) and their territory isn't secure from rapid territorial expansions. Meanwhile, across the Colorado River, Caesar's Legion has set up a horrible society based on Roman beliefs mixed with extensive slavery, sexism, and bigotry; yet the leaders of the Legion are generally intelligent thoughtful people trying to make lives better (from a certain point of view mind you) and have (somewhat) because they turned Arizona from a living hell-hole to an ok place to live. Raider tribes are gone, roads are even safer than in the NCR and (male) merchants make a killing because the Legion's forced conscription means that they do not have taxes in the traditional sense. To residents in the contest Mojave wasteland, the NCR is a good faction, but they'll "steal their wealth and freedom" if they take over and the Legion is just hated on principle.
Used straight, if oddly, in EV Override. The Voinian Empire invaded with the intent of enslaving humanity, causing what used to be just a defensive alliance between the human planets, United Earth, to link up for real and become a truer Federation.
A Fan Sequel contains a subversion. The primary antagonist of The Federation calls itself an empire, but in reality is a fairly democratic nation of Proud Warrior Race Guys (it's more akin to ancient Rome than anything else). Their only real beef with The Federation is that their current borders contain systems that belonged to the empire before it collapsed a couple thousand years ago, then rebuilt itself in the last millennium. The real Empire of the setting is a People's Republic of Tyranny.
Played mildly straight in the X-Universe. The two Commonwealth races with democratic governments (Argon Federation and Boron Kingdom*
it's a constitutional monarchy comparable to Great Britain
) are the good guys, and the two with absolutist governments (Split Dynasty and Paranid Empire) are the bad guys. But morality in the series is kind of gray, and the Commonwealth races will happily work together to deal with threats like the Xenon and Kha'ak.
Really, the only thing making either side good or bad is that the Split and Paranid are usually the aggressors when their political rivalries get violent (reference the Boron Campaign). There's also the fact that the Player Character aligns himself with the Argon (them being Humans by Any Other Name) after becoming marooned in the X-Universe.
Then we get the Terrans in X3: Terran Conflict, whose government is canonically a democracy but has strong xenophobic and paranoid tendencies.
And then in Albion Prelude it's subverted when we find out the Argon Federation are fully willing to commit multiple genocides against the Terrans unprovoked, and the Paranid are so disgusted they side with the Terrans.
Subverted in Freespace. At first it is played straight: the Terrans (whom you play as) have some form of democratic republic, while the Vasudans (the alien enemies) are governed by an Empire (a "Parliamentary Empire", but nonetheless...). However, neither race is wholly evil or good: in sequels, the Terrans suffer some attempted military coups and xenophobic rebellions, while the Vasudan Emperor is actually a pretty benevolent leader who is credited for the Vasudans' post-war economic boom and favors strengthening peace ties with the Terrans.
Subverted and played with in Erfworld, where the good Prince Ansom tries to overthrow the evil Stanley, a warlord who hates the very concept of aristocracy. It's a bit of Grey and Gray Morality, though—-Ansom's arrogance about rank isn't presented as right, but he is presented as willing to take the added responsibilities of leadership along with the perks, while Stanley basically wants to be a king but can't claim the title because he is not, in fact, royal.
Seems to be becoming the case in "TalesOfTheQuestor" as of the recent dragon slaying arc where the human explorer writing to his king about his travels in Antillas seems to have never heard of a republic before, at least not one with a direct democracy, as well as the racoon peoples' national flag being a fantasy version of the famous American revolution flag 'Don't Thread on Me' and given their supposedly inherent and natural aversion to aristocracy and inherited rule...
So averted in Decades Of Darkness: New England becomes a quasi-fascist dictature for a while, the *USA conquers and enslaves the western hemisphere, while the British, German and Russian empires are all comparatively nice. Played relatively straight in Brazil, where the monarchy is pro-*USA and pro-slavery and the republic is somewhat better.
Inverted in Look To The West, where it's republicanism that is currently tarred with the brush of evil (of course, this was somewhat true in the 1810s even in our own world). Partly due to Author Appeal.
Tales of MU is set in the Imperial Republic of Magisteria, which can be seen as good or bad depending on who's asking.
Apparently it's a fantasy version of the Roman empire and United States of America combined.
Seems to be inverted in Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger by the end of the Star Trek parody, though it's not so much that the Federation is evil and the Empire of the Seven Systems is good as much as it's a rant about the author's views on socialism.
Because as we all know, Empires are bad, Kingdoms are good.
In Teen Titans, when Mad Mod conquers America and makes it like a Theme Park Version of Britain, the Titans are unable to defeat him until Starfire makes a Rousing Speech about how democracy is so great. The speech isn't about voting or anything (they've tried that a lot, and it hasn't worked), but compromise, which is encouraged by a system where you have to come up with a way to agree with the opposing party if anything's going to get done, and pretty much boils down to "E pluribus unum" - out of many, one.
Of course, Britain is a democracy, but Mad Mod set himself up as a king. Somewhat lampshaded at the end, when Cyborg remarks that even British people probably don't like Mad Mod.
Transformers began with Optimus Prime and Megatron as supreme leaders of the Autobots and Decepticons. However, Optimus was later retconned into a high-ranking leader but still subservient to a council of emirates. Throughout most incarnations, the Autobots have been generally democratic and egalitarian, while Megatron rules the Decepticons with an iron fist. The exception is Beast Wars, in which Megatron is a rogue Predacon and the majority of Predacons are ruled over by the Tripredacus Council.
In almost all media, Megatron's justification is brought about by "Autobot Oppression". In the three series this troper has followed to any degree (G1, Beast Wars, and Animated) Megatron has always presented himself as the leader of a band of freedom fighting second class citizen Decepticons against the oppressive Autobots who gained power during a war that concluded prior to the start of the series. Granted that this is his version of the stories in most cases (with exception to the war which is acknowledged by all). In a recent Animated episode it was played straight to such a degree that the Constructicons (traditionally Decepticons) don't know who to ally themselves with because both sides are painting the other in a very negative light.
Judging by recent episodes of Animated... Megs may be right, even if he's a dick about it.
In Animated the Autobots government, while still a republic, appears to be a Military Dictatorship run by a Junta. The High Council has one civilian member Alpha Trion, who mentions that he douse not have any power. All the rest appear to be heads of branches of the military with the Magnes acting as chair
One thing this troper has always found strange about the Good Republic, Evil Empire in G1 is that even though Megatron and his troops were the small Empire resisting the Republic, the Decepticons were always better organized. Megatron had the Seekers (insane as they were), his Communication group was far superior to Prime's (All I ever recall Blaster doing was being a Soul Brotha when Jazz wasn't around. Meanwhile, Ravage is recording everything the Autobots say and Laserbeak is knocking Prime out cold in two hits), he had the Constructicons (who built SO many facilities while Prime was content staying stuck in the side of a volcano in a half broken ship) and built the Gestalts faster than the Autobots, too. In fact, I don't think ANY Transformer would have made it back to Cybertron if Megatron hadn't built the space bridge... Why couldn't this mech lead Cybertron, again?
He did lead Cybertron for the vast majority of G1 (technically, Shockwave rules in his stead for the millions of years he was on Earth). The Autobots didn't gain a real foothold on Cybertron until The Movie, when Unicron's attempt to destroy Cybertron wrecked the Decepticons' infrastructure and left the transformed Megatron (now Galvatron) driven totally insane by an overactive pain inducer and trapped on a barren world with no viable energy resources whatsoever. Cybertron's energy crisis would have eventually toppled the Decepticons' empire anyway; it's hard to fight when you're starving to death. Unicron just sped things up.
And in the comics, when Shockwave wasn't ruling Cybertron he was making everything both sides used, from the Constructicons and Sixshot to Ore-13 (the reason why both leaders are on Earth in IDW's series).
While we're on this subject, the G1 Decepticons do an awful lot of voting for an evil empire: once in the movie to jettison the wounded, and again in The Five Faces of Darkness to ally with the Quintessons.
You do realize that in both of those examples, Megatron/Galvatron was not there or otherwise incapacitated, right?
Dino Riders starts with the peaceful democratic Valorians being attacked by the evil Rulon empire.