Coronavirus: moment of glory for autocrats?

In the battle against the novel coronavirus almost every state is relying on restrictive measures that limit the freedoms of their citizens. However some have gone further than others. Journalists discuss whether dictatorships are growing stronger under the guise of fighting the pandemic or whether authoritarian rulers will eventually have to realise that they are powerless against the virus.

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nv.ua (UA) /

Unlimited powers

This is the perfect moment for authoritarian rulers to tighten their grip on power, journalist Ivan Jakowyna points out on the news website nv.ua:

“Look what's happening in the Philippines, for example: dictator Rodrigo Duterte has already called on the police to shoot suspected drug dealers in the past. ... With the coronavirus he tweaked this idea and now has soldiers and police officers fire at those who fail to comply with the quarantine. ... The first thing they did was send troops to kill people protesting against food shortages in the city of Quezon. ... Viktor Orbán has also been dreaming of absolute power for years. ... He was already the most authoritarian leader in the EU. But with the pandemic his parliament has now granted him what he's always dreamed of: powers approaching those of a Monarch - for an indefinite period of time.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Heavy price to pay for censorship and cover-ups

Intransparency and incompetence in the fight against the coronavirus could bring down dictatorial regimes, The Irish Times is convinced:

“Since the earliest days of the coronavirus outbreak, autocratic governments have sought to control and suppress information on the disease. ... A contagious and deadly respiratory disease cannot be fought with the classic dictator's playbook; it cannot be shot, disappeared or simply denied out of existence. But that hasn't stopped some governments resorting to old tactics. ... Yet no amount of censorship will protect a badly-run state from this terrible virus. By seeking to conceal their own failings, and in the process further endangering their own people, autocrats themselves stand to pay a heavy price.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Dictatorships don't do self-criticism

After more than ten weeks of strictly enforced lockdown the Chinese authorities are opening the pandemic's point of origin, the city of Wuhan. No one will take a critical view of this, El Mundo believes:

“This is a symbolic day for China because it is starting to leave behind a scenario of death in which others, like us, are still immersed, or only just entering. It is a day to remember that responsible government action and the discipline of each and every one of us are indispensable for combating the epidemic successfully. But it is also a day on which we should not forget to demand a critical assessment, which is what differentiates liberal democracies from dictatorships. And China is not in a position to teach any lessons in this respect.”