COVID-19 Made Democracies More Authoritarian and Authoritarian Regimes Even Worse

As many countries take aggressive, authoritarian measures to stop the COVID-19 virus from spreading around the world, the COVID-19 epidemic is contributing to the decline of democratic values.

You probably haven’t lived under a rock in the last two years. Still, a new report from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, a global nonprofit based in Sweden, offers a comprehensive look at the worrying trend of democratic erosion—a trend that has been helped along by the pandemic even though its roots go deeper.

The IIDEA says that the world is “becoming more authoritarian” as dictatorships and non-democratic governments become more repressive. Many democratic governments are suffering from backsliding and adopting their strategies of restricting freedom of speech and weakening rule of law. This situation is exacerbated with what could become a “new normal” of Covid-19 restrictions. Three times as many countries are moving towards democracy than are those considered to be becoming more authoritarian by the IIDEA’s calculations. The trend is moving in this direction for the fifth year straight, which represents the longest continuous streak of pro-authoritarian development since 1975 when the IIDEA began tracking such metrics.

This trend existed before the COVID-19 epidemic, although government responses have only made it worse.

A number of democratic countries—the report specifically mentions the United States in this section—have implemented COVID measures “that were disproportionate, illegal, indefinite or unconnected to the nature of the emergency,” according to the IIDEA report. These include travel restrictions as well as the use of emergency powers, which sometimes leave out parliaments.

In fact, the last two years were littered by examples of unheard of government power in America. This includes everything from statewide locks in which governors declared which businesses were essential to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which has the support of the Trump and Biden administrations. It is almost impossible for property owners or tenants to evict non-paying tenants. It took almost two years to get rid of the tenants. This monthThe U.S. should reopen the border with Canada to allow for “nonessential” travel even though it was unlikely that there were any good reasons for closing the border.

Outside the U.S., places like Austria and Australia continue to rachet up authoritarian restrictions on public interactions and economic behavior—even for people who have been vaccinated. The report shows that COVID violations have been made an offense in 69 countries, two thirds of which are considered democracies. Mexico and Albania have the harshest laws, with sentences of up to 15 and 12 years respectively for violations of pandemic-related protocols.

More than 20 percent of countries have used their militaries to enforce COVID controls, which the report warns could contribute to “the normalization of increasingly militarized civil life after the pandemic.” However, 42% of all countries have made contact tracing apps mandatory, or voluntary, a requirement. This may help to curb the spread of virus, but it could also open up new avenues for government surveillance after a pandemic. Of particular concern to IIDEA are the eight non-democratic regimes (Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Singapore, Thailand, and Turkey) where those apps have been made mandatory for all smartphone-using residents.

Some American public health officials are wishing for more restrictive restrictions. Rochelle Walensky is the director of CDC. recently praised the “really strict lockdowns” deployed by China—a country that no healthy democracy should be using as a model for good policy making.

COVID-19 may have been an acute reason for much of the recent democratic backsliding, but the IIDEA Report indicates that there is another more serious threat to the system. “The Rise of Illiberal and Populist Parties in the Last 10 Years Is a Key Explanatory Factor in Democracy Backsliding And Decline,” it states. These parties want to gain power to dismantle government checks, such as freedom of speech and policies to support minority rights.

As such, ReasonStephanie Slade of the American Illiberalism Project has noted that many of America’s leading advocates are quite satisfied with their current position. open about their embrace of authoritarianism. This is because it encourages “will to power” politics. Please visit ourThe tribe rules.” This is not good news for democracy or the preservation and protection of freedoms.

Their ideas are also covered by the will-to-power. Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), for example, wants to give the Commerce Department more power to decide what products can be lawfully bought and sold in the United States—despite the fact that he voted against confirming Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. He is actually attempting to grant more power to someone who he feels isn’t qualified to do the job. Similarly, left-wing efforts to abolish the filibuster in the Senate are easily exposed as nothing more than a power grab by asking advocates how a filibuster-less Senate would have worked during Donald Trump’s presidency—a tactic that Axios’ Jonathan Swan recently used to great effect in an interview with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D–Mich.).

These populist and illiberal sentiments are growing stronger, despite inconsistencies and taking on different forms. The pandemic offered politicians an opportunity to win more governmental power.

The Covid-19 pandemic, like many others, has intensified and magnified already-existing political trends, while also adding new, unprecedented challenges for democracies under pressure,” says Kevin Casas-Zamore in the preface. “The historic human victory when democracy was the preferred form of governance is now in question like never before.”