Some leaders in Europe have been accused of using a public health crisis to curb opposition and boost their influence.
As Turkey arrests hundreds of people for social media posts and Russians are charged with imprisonment for something considered to be fake news, there are concerns that democracy in Poland is being jeopardized and in Hungary is being swept away.
Hungary: ‘Suicide’ Parliament grants Orban extraordinary powers
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is said to use the coronavirus crisis at home and abroad to gain more influence rather than bringing the country together.
On 11 March the Fidesz government declared a state of threat, buying precious time to prepare for the pandemic. But it then used its legislative majority to extend it indefinitely, and the government now has the power to rule by decree for as long as it is required, and can determine when the danger is over.
Turkey: ‘Moment of chance’ for the combative leader of Erdogan
Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, does not have to use the coronavirus outbreak to usurp control, as he already has so much. It is the viewpoint of human rights activists.
Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkish Coordinator for Human Rights Watch, says, “There is no need for a more unified structure,” says.
Russia: Pandemic frustrates Putin’s ambitions
Coronavirus lockdown here is set to decimate the economy, with forecasts of a two-year-long recession and millions of job losses.
Russians tend to blame the local politicians and bureaucrats for their daily issues, not the central authority. But history shows that when people are experiencing acute personal economic pain here, they turn their fire on the leader of their country.
A new legislation rushed through parliament imposes draconian punishments on those accused of transmitting what is considered to be misleading information on coronavirus: fines equal to $25,000 or up to five years in jail.
Poland: Should the government sacrifice lives to hold on to power?
The ruling party in Poland is accused of endangering lives recklessly by pressing ahead during the pandemic with presidential elections in May. The government’s ally, President Andrzej Duda, has seen his poll numbers rise during the pandemic, and is obviously a favorite to win.