Autocrats turning COVID crisis into opportunity. Really?


According to pro-democracy institutions, authoritarianism was on the rise globally even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, PBS reports. But experts say the distraction of the crisis has allowed some leaders to indulge their dictatorial impulses without attracting much attention from the people they govern. Newshour’s Nick Schifrin talks to The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum (above), author of a new book, “Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism,” about this dangerous global dynamic.

On the other hand, Erste’s Jovana Trifunović writes….

Authoritarian leaders are not going to be the major beneficiaries of the corona crisis, claims a leading commentator.

“It is not true for a very simple reason: the most important freedom that every authoritarian leader cares about is the freedom to choose the crises to which he responds,” says IWM Permanent Fellow Ivan Krastev. “Because every dictator dreams to be God. And God is never solving problems that he has not created himself.”

The COVID-19 pandemic shattered lives, put social contracts and international relations to test, disrupted economies. Governance systems, good and bad, are in distress, notes “The Call,” whose Boris Marte talks with Krastev (below) on his role as a public intellectual, the authority of science, power of fear, trading freedom for safety and the danger of not taking risks.

Autocrats’ opportunistic exploitation of the outbreak of Covid-19 was the subject of a recent open letter signed by more than 500 former world leaders and Nobel Laureates. The pandemic poses serious threats to democracy, according to “A Call to Defend Democracy”, an initiative of the Stockholm-based International IDEA and the US-based National Endowment for Democracy. The letter is signed by some 73 pro-democracy institutions as well as a roll call of global political and civic leaders, including 13 Nobel Laureates and 62 former heads of state and government.

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