How can a democracy become an electoral autocracy?

democracy russia

Democracy often changes into dictatorship before you know it. In most cases, you will find that the dictator was once a democratically elected politician. For example, Hitler. What’s surprising is that in the age of internet and despite the presence of UN, dictators keep coming up right under our noses.

Taking the case of Russia, let’s see how a democracy can become dictatorship, step by step:

  1. The first job of an emerging dictator is to silence the opposition. Russia has sentenced its opposition leaders to jail by virtue of old, minuscule cases. Now, having managed to hold power for so long, the situation has worsened. In Russia, you better be silent or be silenced.
  2. Media becomes the spokesperson of the government in a dictatorship. A similar story in Russia has unfolded. Independent media was dismantled piece by piece since Putin came to power in 2000. Today, three biggest TV channels in Russia are state owned. Now, all the news channels show Putin as the macho man. (His fight skills. His wide chest. His animal love. Etc.)
  3. A government fears alert and aware citizens the most. So, police forces are used whenever these people protest. In other words, it’s a crackdown on dissent. In fact, in 2019, European court of human rights (ECHR) ordered payment of 1.5 million euros in compensation to these citizens. Dissent is an integral part of democracy but by taking advantage of majority, democratically elected leaders try to crush dissent by law.
  4. People these days raise their voice on the internet as well because it is considered a free place to be. However, Russia enacted a draconian law for bloggers and online media, in 2014. According to this: If a site has more than 3000 readers, it will have to register with the government. Meaning, no anonymity. Control and censorship is on the rise.
  5. The roles of NGOs have been limited. Back in 2005, a law that threatened NGOs was amended. All the Non governmental organizations started to suffer from government interferences. Foreign NGOs were accused of employing spies, aka, international conspiracy to break Russia. So, in 2015, a law against “undesirable NGOs” was passes.
  6. After gaining control over all the institutions, the next target is always judiciary, if a democracy has to convert into autocracy. Putin govt has made many changes in their constitution. One of which is Article 83. According to this: President Putin has the power to appoint and/or terminate the judges.
  7. A country should be judged by how it treats its minorities. In Oct 2013, a Russian boy was murdered in south Moscow. The blame was put on migrants which caused an outrage across Russia. Russia for Russians. White power. These kind of slogans emerged.

Despite all of this, Putin’s popularity hasn’t taken a hit, because, media has made people fall in love with Putin. Thus, Putin has managed to grab more power. He has a right to extend his rule until 2036. So, what starts out as democracy, can eventually turn into autocracy, as we have seen.

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