Strange Sense of Isolation

The Plague’s Challenges to Democratic Life

20 May 2020

Democracies in Central and Eastern Europe have been in retreat for a while even before being hit by the pandemic. This is why the possible consequences of this extraordinary moment are so alarming.

The remarkable situation we face today provides an opportunity every authoritarian leaning leader dreams about, but few have the actual power (or bravado) to design. Emergency powers allow for a swift political response to extraordinary and rapidly changing situations.

At the same time, the state of exception offers an opportunity to demolish the rule of law and extend the limitations of civil liberties. We did not have to wait long to witness the tightening grip of power, by Viktor Orbán in Hungary or further purge of the judicial process and renewed attempts to tighten up the reproductive health rights by ruling Law and Justice in Poland.

Distrust in the democratic process facilitates the continuing trend favouring “strongmen”, who ought to just solve the problems by the rule of a firm hand, rather than make decisions through deliberation.

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Simona Merkinaite

Programme Coordinator at the Open Lithuania Foundation

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