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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchWould-be autocrats are using covid-19 as an excuse to grab more power

Would-be autocrats are using covid-19 as an excuse to grab more power

Author: The Economist

Affiliation: The Economist

Organization/Publisher: The Economist

Date/Place: April 23, 2020/London, UK

Type of Literature: Editorial

Word Count: 2544


Keywords: Covid-19 Pandemic, Autocracy, Power, Surveillance, Emergency.


The Economist, through its coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, proposes an analysis of how power is grasped and how it would be misused in the future_ by governments in the context of the Covid-19 Emergency laws and conditions. It is argued that Covid-19 is paving the way for autocrats or “would-be autocrats” to grasp more power based on the claim that they need extraordinary powers to deal with situation and protect public health. Many countries have announced state of emergency since the beginning of the pandemic, however not all of them are expected to relinquish these gained powers after the pandemic. It is claiming that it is especially risky for immature or weak democracies not established democracies like the USA. This argument is based on historical experience of how rulers exploit states of emergency to gain more powers by giving the examples of Putin and Erdogan after the 2016 coup. It is even considered more dangerous since the attention of the whole world is occupied by the current pandemic situation more than anything else. It shows, then, how political systems are issuing political acts that is weakening the constitution and increasing the grasp of power including Hungary, China, Russia, Algeria, Turkey, etc. Moreover, these governments normalize such acts as measures to fight Covid-19, although they transcend whatever measures have been taken by other democratic countries. This situation is increasing surveillance, prejudices against minorities, opposition and critics suppression, and frustrating the free flow of information through increased censorship. It also opens the way for more military control and intervention in the public life, while in many cases it is postponing elections in some countries. Although Covid-19 is facilitating ‘autocrats’ more grasp of power, it is also threatening their situation by rising the risk of deprivation and deteriorated economic conditions that could affect not only the public, but also the loyalty of the army and the system’s patronage. To sum up, Covid-19 may enhance instability for these systems since “autocracies have no immunity”. 

By: Yomna Süleyman, CIGA Research Assistant



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