Opinion | 2020s will be defined by dictators


Photo courtesy of European People's Party/Flickr

Prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, attends a meeting on Mar. 14, 2013. Columnist Jude Race believes with the current state of leaders around the world that the rest of the decade will be run by dictators.

By Jude Race, Columnist

Often we track time past for good things, like wedding anniversaries, days without a workplace injury or years without the self-destruction of humanity. 

However, FreedomHouse declared 2020 the 15th consecutive year in which global democracy has stared down the barrel of the dictator’s rifle. Given the domestic and international events of 2021, you may presumptively wish the new wave of authoritarianism a happy 16th birthday.

Who knew sweet 16 could be so bitter?

The world’s falling out with democracy has been in the making since 2006 and shows no signs of slowing. Considering the momentum dictators have built up, the 2020s will surely be known as the decade when despotism came back into vogue. 

In East Asia, China looks to surpass the U.S. as global power #1, lofting their tyrannical model of governance as an exemplar for other states. Ukraine, the partially democratic keystone in Europe’s anti-authoritarian bulwark, is threatened by a looming war with Russia.

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    None of this is to mention the U.S. is confronted with its own eroding institutions and conspiratorial populism.

    Around the world, people face increasing restrictions on their rights and representation; 75% of humanity lives in countries that have slid toward tyranny. Particularly concerning, though, are the situations in Myanmar, Hungary, Venezuela and Cameroon.

    Feb. 1 was the one-year anniversary of the Myanmar coup that put the already fragile, barely-democratic state under the rule of Gen. Min Aung Hlaing’s junta. Some are even calling it a civil war now as violence between Hlaing’s junta and freedom fighters escalates.

    Last June, Hungary banned queer representation in children’s education and media, explicitly lumping homosexuality in with child abuse. Additionally, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party increasingly spouts off anti-Romani rhetoric in a media landscape overrun by pro-Fidesz interests. 

    Last week, Nicolás Maduro defeated a petition to recall him from Venezuela’s presidency. The opposition never met the absurd mandate of 4.2 million signees in only 12 hours. Furthermore, Russia and China are training Maduro’s regime in the arts of war and oppression to establish a bridgehead into Colombia’s weakened government, eroding democracy at America’s backdoor.

    Governing Cameroon for nearly four decades, President Paul Biya enjoys the continued military support of the United Kingdom despite his despotic orientation. Meanwhile, the Anglophone problem there is worsening, with scores of Anglophone reporters and activists unlawfully detained by the Francophone government. 

    Min Aung Hlaing, Orbán, Maduro and Biya are only four of many dictators, but they are representative of what the decade will hold: Opportunists taking advantage of fragility, politicians capitalizing on prejudice, proxies used as leverage and tyrants supported by free societies. 

    Unless the world’s democracies promote state-building, open-mindedness, self-reliance and consistency in values, oppression will be remembered as the rising star of our current hour. 

    Jude is a senior in LAS.

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