Police State/Civil Liberties

As leaders seize powers to fight coronavirus, fear grows for democracy

If even the WaPo is worried, it must be getting bad.

Bt Michael Birnbaum and Terrence McCoy

Washington Post

BRUSSELS —France and Bolivia have postponed elections. Peru handed its president broad new legislative authority. Israel sharply ramped up the reach of its surveillance state.

While leaders around the world fight the spread of the coronavirus, they’re amassing sweeping new powers. As legislatures limit or suspend activities in the name of social distancing, many of the norms that define democracy — elections, deliberation and debate, checks and balances — have been put on indefinite hold.

The speed and breadth of the transformation is unsettling political scientists, government watchdogs and rights groups. Many concede that emergency declarations and streamlining government decision-making are necessary responses to a global health threat. But they question how readily leaders will give up the powers they’ve accrued when the coronavirus eventually subsides.

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