By Dimitar Bechev
In less than a month, the COVID-
But it is not just economic growth coming under threat. It is becoming abundantly clear that democracy is at peril too. Put simply, governments worldwide will be reluctant to surrender emergency powers they have arrogated in the name of combatting the pandemic.
In democratic systems, emergency situations are supposed to be a temporary fix. Once the storm passes, (hopefully sooner rather than later), executives submit to the usual degree of parliamentary oversight. The courts ensure that authorities do not violate individual and group rights, without facing accusations that they are behaving irresponsibly in the face of a mortal danger. The media holds officials accountable for their actions and decisions. Surveillance or other forms of infringement into the private sphere are permissible in narrow circumstances.
That, unfortunately, is not the world we live in. A glimpse of what may be in store
has just come from Hungary. The central European country just saw the passage of
emergency legislation tightening Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s grip on power. It
introduces jail terms for up to five years for those who disobey measures to curb
Hungary may be an exceptional case, in the sense that it has been backsliding over
a decade. But others in the European Union, particularly in central and eastern Europe
where democratic governance has shallow roots, may be tempted to follow suit. Orbán
is a role model for many, not least for the centre-
How is this relevant to Turkey? In a sense, its story differs from that of Hungary.
But there is another side of the coin. The ongoing erosion of democracy across the
world is likely to get worse, especially if the pandemic triggers a severe economic
downturn. Established democratic regimes in the West are struggling in the face of
surging populism and nativism. It is far from clear who will win from this new round
triggered by COVID-
The Turkish president knows that well: his charm offensive vis-