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JOHANNESBURG – Former US President Barack Obama's condemning of strongmen politics has widely been seen as a dig against his successor Donald Trump, a day after he sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over American intelligence agencies.

Obama addressed thousands of people on Tuesday for the Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg.

His speech focused on the defence of democracy at a time when Trump has come under fire for undermining it.

The former US president says that he is not being an alarmist when he says there is a rise in authoritarian rule even in democracies.

“Strong men politics are ascending suddenly whereby elections and some pretence of democracy are maintained.”

He says even though some leaders are democratically elected, they undermine institutions and norms that form the basis of democracy.

“And that kind of politics is now on the move.”

It is widely believed that Obama was lashing out against US President Donald Trump without naming him.

Trump faces backlash for holding a news conference in Finland on Monday where he sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over US intelligence agencies on the question of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 US election.

Obama was met with thunderous applause when he said real democracy means government exists to serve the people.

“Democracy depends on strong institutions and it’s about minority rights, checks and balances, freedom of speech, freedom of express and a free press.”

He referred to the legacy of the South African struggle icon Mandela as he spoke about the need for change in the world.

“Madiba’s popularity… he could’ve been president for life. Am I wrong?”

The former US president noted that democracy should be about more than just elections and who gets the most votes.

Obama lashed out at strongman politics which he says is on the rise.

WATCH: Obama's 4 steps to keeping Madiba's legacy alive


Just one day after Trump was heavily criticised for a humiliating news conference with Vladimir Putin, Obama criticised populist movements toward authoritarianism around the world and he ridiculed the "utter loss of shame among political leaders" who lie.

“Given the strange and uncertain times that we’re in, with each day’s news cycles bringing head-spinning and disturbing headlines, I thought maybe it would be useful to step back for a moment and get some perspective.”

Obama has made an art of criticising the current US president's values without explicitly naming Trump, peppering his speech on Tuesday afternoon with warnings against some of Trump's key policies, including protectionism, climate change denial and closed borders.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)

This article first appeared on EWN : Obama: Authoritarian rule on the rise

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