For authoritarian-minded leaders world-wide, health emergency presents opportunity to weaken democracy
With much of the world on lockdown, the coronavirus pandemic has chipped away at individual liberties everywhere. (Authoritarian minded leaders are everywhere)
In more places, however, it is also being used as an excuse to weaken democratic institutions and oversight—an authoritarian slide that could endure once the current health emergency subsides.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin this month pushed through parliament the removal of term limits, ensuring he could remain in power for life, just as the fear of the coronavirus has rendered public protests against these constitutional changes impossible.And in Canada our federal and provincial leadership rendered millions of us unemployed amid mass lock downs. Including the padlocking of parks and the fencing off of play grounds. Oh and encouraging snitching on neighbours...👀
But, ya know "Putin" is an autocrat? Really? Just Putin? Cause right about now Trudeau and Doug Ford are lookin' pretty dang autocratic to me and many others.
Autocratic: relating to a ruler who has absolute power
taking no account of other people's wishes or opinions; domineering
"In Bolivia, the interim and unelected government has canceled presidential elections slated for May. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is moving ahead with legislation that would allow him to rule by decree and imprison people spreading “falsehoods.”
And in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party this week used the coronavirus crisis to prevent the opposition, which gained a majority of seats in the March 2 elections, from taking control of parliamentary proceedings. The gambit Thursday resulted in the opposition’s breakup, with part of it opting for a unity government. A separate decision by the Israeli government to shut down courts also scuttled Mr. Netanyahu’s corruption trial, which had been set to begin March 17.Haven't we been repeatedly told, I mean over and over that Israel is the "only democracy in the Middle East"
"According to the Democracy Index 2016 study, Israel (#29 worldwide) is the only democracy in the Middle East"Obviously there is a very fine line between Autocracy and Democracy. The line is so fine, its no longer discernible.
To authoritarian-minded politicians world-wide, the coronavirus emergency is turning into a godsend, said Kati Piri, a Hungarian-born Dutch member of the European Parliament.Europe, Canada and the US can't let a good crisis go to waste, quite obviously.
“These people never let a good crisis to be wasted,” she said. “We have only been in this crisis for about 10 days, and we know that, unfortunately, this will last not weeks but perhaps many months. With an anxious public in already very polarized countries, anything can happen.”
Indeed, the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic—which just in the past two weeks killed several thousand people in Europe and in the U.S.—has already generated unprecedented restrictions on fundamental liberties in much of the West.
Following China’s apparently successful example in containing the virus through shutting down public life, Italy and then other European nations, as well as state and local governments in the U.S. in recent weeks banned citizens from leaving homes except for basic necessities. Countries such as South Korea and Israel have used intrusive surveillance and phone-tracking technology to find and isolate suspected coronavirus carriers. “End of Freedom,” went the banner headline in London’s Daily Telegraph when the U.K. became the latest European nation to go on lockdown earlier this week.Autocrats and Totalitarianism often walk hand in hand:
Totalitarianism is a system where the state strives to control every aspect of life and civil society. It can be headed by a supreme leader, making it autocratic, but it can also have a collective leadership such as a commune, junta, or single political party.The State is certainly striving to control every aspect of life and civil society in Canada, the US, Europe and many others places... Just something to think about. Things that need considering.
"These restrictions, even if they lead to the postponement of elections in some countries, don’t by themselves alter nations’ democratic nature. ( Didn't this article open with the insinuation the Bolivia's interim leadership was being an Autocrat? Yes, it did! ) that the The U.K., after all, remained a democracy through World War II even though its draconian wartime legislation was used to imprison suspected subversives without trial, said François Heisbourg, a former French national-security official and a scholar at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. “In wartime, freedom goes down the tube, but democracy doesn’t go down the tube.” (that's contradictory)
With the world on a war footing these days, national leaders will be judged primarily by whether they are able to contain the disease, he added. “The relevant question is, are we going to win or lose in the face of an enemy, and the enemy happens to be the virus,” Mr. Heisbourg said. “Some politicians will want to do it to preserve our way of life and our democracy, and others—the autocrats—will do it to increase their power. But what will determine who profits is who will be more effective in beating the virus.”
The problem, of course, is that the coronavirus pandemic swept the world at a time when democracy was already under attack—both because of the rise of authoritarian politicians in nations from the Philippines to Turkey to Brazil, and because of China’s effort to present itself as an alternative model to the Western liberal order.
Freedom House, an organization that tracks political freedoms and individual liberties world-wide, has noted that 2019 marked the 14th consecutive year of the global freedom decline.
“We were already at the precipice. The fears and the anxieties were already there, and now you inject the virus on top of that,” said Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington-based research institute. “We now find ourselves in a really dangerous place for maintaining a democratic future. I can see us coming out of the public-health crisis that we are currently in with many more people buying into the notion that authoritarian states are better equipped to deal with future crises.”
China’s propaganda apparatus (?) has already launched an all-out effort at home and abroad to portray its ability to contain the virus as testament to the superiority of its party-state system—and is sending planeloads of medical supplies and doctors to virus-stricken European nations. (So, it's autocratic to help other nations?)
The Kremlin has joined the bandwagon, with Russian military trucks laden with supplies parading through the streets of Italy this week. The initial wavering and slow decision-making that allowed the virus to spread in Europe and the U.S. have been described with near-glee on Russian TV. Moscow insists that it is able to keep the infection at relatively low levels—despite reports of many hidden cases—and hasn’t imposed a lockdown so far."Russia hasn't imposed a lockdown, but Canada did. The US did. And those two nations are supposedly democracies??? And speaking of sending medical supplies. Hasn't the US, in fact, been quite the dictatorship, autocratic like, with regard to helping Iran and Venezuela.
Britain, China and Russia, among others, have called on the United States to ease sanctions so that Iran can respond more effectively, but the Trump administration has displayed no signs of heeding such pleas. Instead, last week the United States announced a new round of sanctions.
“As far as the Russian leadership is concerned, this crisis confirms its worldview that the Western systems are inefficient, and that the liberal political model simply can’t cope,” said Andrey Kortunov, director-general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a government think tank in Moscow.
Other authoritarian regimes are drawing similar conclusions. In Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev last week labeled his political opposition as national traitors endangering public health. “During the existence of the disease,” Mr. Aliyev said, “isolation of the representatives of the fifth column will become a historical necessity.”
Though Azerbaijan is an extreme example, the coronavirus pandemic potentially threatens democracy in many other places.
“In a moment of crisis, when people are fearful, they are looking to authorities to reassure them, and they are willing to give leaders additional tools to manage chaos and limit risk,” said Daniel Shapiro, a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. “The danger is that these tools that exceed the limits of the normal democratic system may not be returned after the crisis is over. That’s the balance that every democracy faces in a moment of crisis like this.”
The limits have been well exceeded. And the tools we've allowed these leaders to use had better be returned in better shape then they were given! While I'm shocked to see Israel shown in an unflattering way the Wall Street Journal piece was heavily skewed to demonize Russia and China, while failing to really address and acknowledge the heavy handed tactics being wielded against citizens in the so called "free world"