Authoritarianism Going Viral: Project Syndicate

The Covid-19 pandemic has created the opportunity for leaders with authoritarian tendencies to consolidate power and reduce human rights. Many governments have used the pandemic to discriminate against strongholds of political opponents as well as ethnic, religious or racial minorities. After the virus emerged in China, the government applied coverup efforts and punished whistle-blowers. India’s government gave four hours’ notice for a strict 21-day lockdown. Police and military in Kenya and Nigeria rough up citizens who do not obey social distancing rules. Israel, China and others apply more surveillance tools to track citizen movements. The US Department of Justice has asked for power to detain citizens indefinitely without trial. Hungary’s prime minister pushed a law that “effectively codifies his status as an absolute dictator,” explains Patrick Gaspard for Project Syndicate. Democracies have not spoken out, he noted, “But history shows us that illiberal leaders rarely, if ever, allow their emergency powers to expire.” Since the essay’s publication, Hong Kong arrested 12 democracy activists, and the US president announce plans to suspend some immigration temporarily. The initial response of many leaders who display authoritarian styles was denial, and the subsequent power grabs are counterproductive, undermining trust. As Gaspard also notes, “suppressing press freedoms makes it far more difficult to raise awareness about how the public should respond.” He concludes that public health, democracy and economic strength are intricately connected and require similar defense. – YaleGlobal

Authoritarianism Going Viral: Project Syndicate

The coronavirus pandemic provides the perfect excuse for leaders to display authoritarian tendencies and consolidate power
Patrick Gaspard
Monday, April 20, 2020

Read the article from Project Syndicate about the need to be vigilant in protecting democracy during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Patrick Gaspard, a former United States ambassador to South Africa, is president of the Open Society Foundations.

Read the article from the Hill about the US president announcing plans to issue an executive order to suspend immigration temporarily.

Read the article from the New York Times – “Amid Pandemic, Hong Kong Arrests Major Pro-Democracy Figures.”

Protecting Democracy During Covid-19  -	Use every tool to protect civil liberties  -	Social distancing does not justify brutality or abuse of power -	Question restrictions on free speech or the right to protest, even as social distancing rules apply -	Resist scapegoating -	Rely on scientific expertise and evidence-based approaches -	Address economic and social disparities -	Support for universal health care, paid sick leave, worker protections and emergency reserves contribute to protecting society   –  Open Societies
(Source: Patrick Gaspard, Project Syndicate)

It's time to think long and hard about the kind of world we want to live in.  Patrick Gaspard, Open Societies - background of city street with trees
Time to reassess? In responding to the crisis, societies and individuals must set priorities based on values and plan, making most efficient use of limited resources (Source:  Patrick Gaspard and Open Societies Foundation response; photo, deeproot)

© Project Syndicate - 2020