COVID-19 Tempts Would-Be Authoritarians- Foreign Affairs

The pandemic reveals something that many would like to abhor at the first sight. It is the implementation of emergency measures that prompts governments to limit civil liberties and expand centralization of powers.

“Today’s pandemic comes at a time when authoritarianism is on the rise. In Turkey, India, and elsewhere, autocratic leaders jail journalists, prosecutors, and critics; seize businesses worth billions of dollars; enrich themselves and their cronies; and fill state bureaucracies with ideologues and loyalists”, underlines the Foreign Affairs piece.

In the Chinese case silencing of the Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, was not to contain the virus but to “maintain regime stability and social control.” The piece indicates, “For authoritarian leaders, staying in power nearly trumps the public’s welfare.”

Post-Covid world will exhibit the normalization of this state of emergency – “no longer the exception but the rule,” in the words of Walter Benjamin. It is of major concern as authoritarians are tempted by the emergency as rule. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, has completed his autocratic capture of the state on the pretext of pandemic.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have laid the foundations of authoritarian governance. This is reflected in their scathing attacks on press and “rollbacks of environmental protections. Facts about the severity of virus do not hold for these wannabe authoritarians. Bolsonaro fired his health minister and Trump followed the suit by retweeting support for #Fire Fauci campaign.

The virus is a great leveler in the face of authoritarians who demand a society structured around vertical bonds. In this regard, many believe that the pandemic has opened the eyes of callousness of their governments. The piece notes, “Those who desire more accountable leadership may emerge stronger and more united from this collective experience.”

Link to the original article for a deep read-https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2020-05-05/covid-19-tempts-would-be-authoritarians

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