Friday, May 22, 2020

Pandemic shows the inherent weakness of populist leaders

Is it possible that the COVID-19 pandemic might mark the death knell for the unfortunate recent spate of populism?
Most of the countries with governments that revolve around a strong, right-wing populist leader with autocratic tendencies have tended to suffer disproportionately during this global health crisis. Think Donald Trump in the USA, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Boris Johnson in the UK, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Narendra Modi in India, etc. Many other authoritarian regimes (e.g. China, Belarus, Iran, Hungary) are clearly witholding information and severely massaging statistics so as to hide the truth of the matter, which is also par for the course.
It was perhaps predictable but, although populists can cruise along quite happily while things are going well, they are often ill-equipped to deal with a real crisis (and it doesn't get much more real than the current pandemic). When the shit hits the proverbial, it becomes apparent that these people are not actually born leaders, but opportunists of the worst sort, more concerned with their own images and re-election prospects, than with the welfare of the ordinary people they claim to love so dearly and represent so strongly. The Emperor's clothes have never looked so transparent as right now.
Of course, this thing is far from over (whatever the populists might tell you). But one does get the feeling that we might well be living through something of a paradigm shift. Whether voters the world over will have lost all faith in their elected representatives over this populist period remains to be seen.

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