For just over a year the world has been swept up in a pandemic. This pandemic has affected nearly every person on Earth in some way or another. According to the Economist in The Pandemic has Eroded Democracy and Respect Human Rights the virus has taken a big toll on human freedoms and rights. Across the globe many leaders have used the pandemic to extend their power and reduce the rights of the people. These leaders have also used threats and fear to keep citizens at bay, even using virus lockdowns to keep angry citizens from protesting and speaking out against the oppression.
I believe that the author made some very important points in their article. The pandemic has brought about many challenges for people all over the world. From losing jobs, to illness, and for some, even the loss of a loved one. However, this article brings up a point about the pandemic that many people might not even think about. Especially as an American, I have not felt a loss of freedom surrounding the virus, but it is evident that other countries are not so lucky. I agree that a loss of freedoms has been experienced in many countries as a result of the pandemic, and that something must be done to stop this trend from occurring.
In many countries, especially those that are considered partly democratic, the pandemic has been a danger more than just the virus itself. In Uganda the current President Yoweri Museveni has had citizens beaten or worse for attempting to help others during this tumultuous time. One member of parliament went out of his way to deliver food to some of Uganda’s needy, going from door to door and leaving food for the residents. He was then picked up the next morning by authorities, beaten and threatened. The Ugandan government says that people cannot dispense rations of food and other goods during the pandemic because it could lead to large and rowdy gatherings. Even though the food deliveries in question followed Covid-19 guidelines and did not put anyone in danger, harsh actions were still taken against the good samaritan. While the government might claim that only they can distribute food to eliminate the chance of a public frenzy there may be a more sinister reason for this. By the government being the only one who can distribute supplies to citizens during lockdowns and quarantines, they are keeping the people at bay and making them play to their will. This is a tactic of the government to control its people and render them helpless without the help of the government. This may also paint the President in a positive light as he is the one to provide food to those who need it. While many Ugandans see through the sham of lies there is little they can do about it. They must stay in lockdown and if they try to protest or continue to help they will likely be beaten or killed.
Other countries have also put in place stricter rules since the start of the pandemic. Some countries, including Russia, have even delayed elections or changed the rules of how the elections would work. This is extremely dangerous and is a clear sign of democratic erosion. When norms, especially norms regarding elections, begin to change, a nation’s democracy is likely at risk. Free and fair elections are a key sign of a healthy democracy, and the loss of them is a major red flag. The pandemic has allowed for politicians to change things about elections, and once again this is often under the guise of public safety. One of the governments discussed in the article changed the election rules so that ballots could be cast anywhere, making it nearly impossible to know the true and fair results. In Russia, Putin was able to change the rules of elections to keep himself in power until 2036. These amendments to norms were able to be slipped in during a global crisis but are very concerning.
These changes are pushing countries teetering on the democratic line farther and farther away from a truly democratic system. If something isn’t done to combat this, the world as a whole could be moving in a darker direction. It is important for people to be aware of these global issues to spread awareness of the silenced voices of the oppressed of the nations in jeopardy. The pandemic has been hard on everyone without the fear of losing your basic human rights. Even after a cure is found, and everyone has been vaccinated, these countries will still have lasting effects in the form of new government policies and leaders.
Image: Coronavirus Pandemic (Photo: MGN Online)