democratic recession


The events in Brazil should once again remind us of the fragility of our systems of rights and freedoms. The rise of authoritarianism through leaders and parties practicing radical demagoguery is no stranger to us. We are already taking too many steps backwards on many critical points

Anti-democratic attacks on institutions today seem as contagious as democratic revolutions once were. Last Sunday, far-right supporters of defeated ex-president Jair Bolsonaro stormed Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace on a day when there was no political or judicial activity and Lula was not even present at what will once again become his official residence. Like the Trump supporters who violently stormed the Capitol, the Brazilian attackers had no preconceived plan, nor at least a clear goal, as the American radicals did: to disrupt the ratification of Biden’s election victory for the House of Representatives. Formally, what happened in Brazil bears no resemblance to the long tradition of coups by military or authoritarian leaders in Latin America, were it not for the fact that last Sunday’s uprisings are also undoubtedly an attack on democracy. at the polls that taps into the political logic of the new authoritarian populist leaders. The origin of these serious incidents was not a covert operation, but a public campaign of massive deception until a large part of the population was convinced that the elections had been manipulated by electronic voting. There is not even evidence to that effect, but several years of conspiratorial stories and lies propagated by the far-right Bolsonaro, following Trump, created the favorable breeding ground. Only one match was missing to unleash the flames in that powder keg.

A year ago, we also saw in the Region what a disinformation campaign can bring about through hoaxes spread via WhatsApp and false stories spread with interest. At the end of the month it will be one year since a group of farmers raided a municipal building in Lorca, where councilors were debating a pig farming scheme. Some robbers later testified that they were convinced there was a plan to take down their facilities. The suspicion that those who forcibly broke into those offices in recent days could have been applauded by the PP, and especially by Vox, is still there, although the judicial investigation is still ongoing, perhaps another six months. After a year, the new city regulations to remove pig farms from populated areas have not yet been approved. Everything is therefore open only a few months before the municipal elections in May, a period particularly fertile for polarization and self-interested disinformation.

Speaking of Brazil’s riots last Wednesday, writer Sergio del Molino said threats to democracy have become so common since 2016 that they are already part of the landscape. In 2017, The Economist already calculated that 89 countries suffered a democratic backlash that year and only 27 improved. The problem comes from afar. Freedom House, an organization that promotes global democracy, notes its decline in the world over sixteen years. This worrying phenomenon has been studied extensively, leading to numerous works by historians, political scientists and specialist journalists. In 2018, Professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt published “How Democracies Die,” a seminal work followed by many other books of great importance that analyze the gradual collapse of democratic values, the rise of populism and tribalism, the temptation of authoritarianism, and the growth of far-right and left-wing ideologies in prosperous, modern countries with a solid democratic track record.

Marlene Wind, professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen, famous for the plot “review” she gave to the fugitive Carles Puigdemont during a debate, offers many interesting clues in her book “The tribalization of Europe”. “Many more people than we thought today are fascinated by authoritarian leaders and tribal rhetoric. Many no longer believe that democracy and the rule of law are values ​​worth fighting for.” Not a few are signing up for the easiest card of anti-globalism, trying to make public opinion believe that international institutions and liberal values ​​are the root of all evil. The problem is that everything normalizes and what happened in Washington, Brasilia or Lorca is no longer frightening. Letting go is more pleasant. Populist and tribalist identity politics are cognitively less demanding than appeals to unity and defense When Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán or Polish Law and Justice leaders fire judges, shut down the independent press or change election rules, part of the population believes they are legitimized by the mere fact that they won the elections , recalls Wind.Those are the ideological references that the Vox kand recently proclaimed idate as president of the Region of Murcia.

Historians Timothy Snyder, from Yale, and Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum, are well aware of this rise of authoritarianism in Europe and later in the United States, with the rise of the autocratic drift of Trump and Putin. Both place the origin of this undemocratic tsunami in 2010, when the Polish president died when his plane crashed while on his way to pay tribute to soldiers executed by Russian forces in World War II. It was good when in 2010 Putin started working in every way to weaken the European Union and its democratic values, setting himself the goal of invading Ukraine, explains Snyder. Applebaum, whose work is essential to understanding this phenomenon, points out that authoritarianism attracts people who do not tolerate complexity and are suspicious of others with ideas different from their own, but that clearly does not in itself explain how autocratic leaders can win a victory. election. In addition to the “fake news,” much has to do with the fact that social networking algorithms themselves promote false perceptions of the world.

The main idea about this undermining of values ​​and principles of liberal democracies by radical and populist forces on the right and left is that our systems of rights and freedoms are very fragile. No country is free from these democratic setbacks. What has happened in Spain over the past decade is not very exciting, with the rise of the most radical demagogues and the recent concessions in criminal cases to the independents, while the fight against corruption weakens. The transparency of public administration, both in the Region and at national level, has suffered in recent years, while the independence of the judiciary has been questioned to unprecedented levels. It is now more clear than ever that the survival of democracies depends on an active and daily defense of their values ​​and the counterbalances enshrined in the Constitution.

Source: La Verdad


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