In our new CONVOCO! Podcast Corinne M. Flick speaks with the Indian human rights activist Salil Shetty. Salil Shetty is affiliated with the South Asia Institute at Harvard University and previously served as Amnesty International’s Secretary General from 2010-2018.
Bruno Kahl, the former president of the German Federal Intelligence Service, already wrote in the C! Edition 2021:
“The ideological battle is no longer between communism and capitalism, but between constitutional, value-based democracies on the one hand and emerging authoritarian models of society on the other.”
In today’s conversation with Salil Shetty, Corinne Flick takes a closer look at one of these models: electoral authoritarianism.
How Authoritarian Leaders Capture Democracies
Here’s what he said:
The West has done a disservice to democracy by fixating too much on elections. Equating elections with democracy has caused authoritarian leaders to realize that all they need to do is game the elections to be legitimate.
Polarizing your population, creating an “us versus them” situation, is a winning electoral strategy. Each country has its own favorite scapegoat: be it refugees, LGBT, women, Muslims, or any other group.
One of the first things authoritarian leaders try to do is to delegitimize civil society … In India, over 20,000 NGOs have been shut down [e.g. Amnesty International and Oxfam]- pretty much any organization that’s critical. The few media organizations which were relatively independent have been under attack, shut down or acquired.
Why are western powers not raising their voice about what’s happening in India? There’s at least three factors: (1) India’s a huge market, (2) the plan to offset China, and (3) a rich and powerful Indian diaspora in the US and the UK.
Authoritarian leaders amend laws to make them inconsistent or in violation of international human rights or legal standards. They use these laws to abuse their authority and say it’s all been done lawfully, but the law itself is unlawful.
While there are many depressing trends, we also have a lot of bright spots. Brazil, for example, is a huge source of inspiration, as is Colombia and Chile. The resistance is real and vibrant.