Classic Authoritarianism

April 24, 2021

Classic Authoritarianism

Padmini Arhant

How to recognize authoritarianism in the twenty first century?

First and foremost citizens need to determine the significance to constitution – the corner stone in any democracy protecting citizens of the entire nation across the spectrum defining individual rights, liberty, security and sovereignty.

The concept of republic defended and enshrined in the nation’s constitution is instrumental to distinguish between democracy and autocracy.

The political leadership as the head of the state, the government and opposition representing the nation at large understanding of constitutional rights, honoring constitutional oath to serve the nation and the people barring pride and prejudice reflected in a functional democracy.

The democratic system would uphold constitutional rule of law. Whereas the authoritarian governance would slight and reject constitution as inconvenient implementing rules and legislations in pursuit of personal and political ideology.

The authoritarian government would further promote ideology premised on fundamentalism, feudalism and any other undemocratic principles in the capacity as fiduciary in personal, political and vested interests.

In doing so, the people’s republic protected by constitution is transformed into vassal statehood. The surrender of sovereignty facilitates dominion republic enabling internal and external forces’ dominance over people’s republic.

Next the ruling power’s style of governance deserve attention.

Style of governance would begin with level of transparency such as public access to information on all matter concerning citizens and national affairs including international relations.

Then the role of press and communication media. Whether they are able to exercise the freedom of press as expected in any functioning democracy abandoning bias and acquiescence or they serve as the state broadcasting networks evolved into government channels with disinformation and propaganda.

The political leadership and government tolerance to free speech sharing genuine views and concerns on issues related to economy, health, education, environment and social inequality is litmus test on democracy.

Importantly, the head of the state as Prime Minister or President meeting the real press once a week is a requirement unlike crony groveling media appeasement making a mockery of journalism.

The PM or President press meet taking direct questions from them again not scripted and pre-approved with answers from administration team.

Instead extemporaneous i.e. impromptu is critical to assess the head of the state’s acumen and grasp on all issues relevant to citizens and the country.

The press conference allowing constructive objective critique on administration and political party’s policies, actions, decisions or the lack thereof would exemplify respect for democracy.

Similarly public interaction with the head of the state responding to citizens’ grievances and struggles in public forum that could be conducted in virtual format in the pandemic situation. Again spontaneous not pre-arranged questions and response.

The political opposition are crucial and depends on the members seated as opposition quite often in quid pro quo between the ruling and so-called opposition grand standing public in people’s house – the Parliament or Congress assembly.

The opposition not necessarily opposing anything and everything from the other side. At the same time the opposition are not meant to kowtowing falling in line with the ruling power in self and vested interests against citizens and the nation they are elected under oath to serve the nation and the people in entirety – the ones who voted for and against them setting aside pride and prejudice. 

The basic evidence on authoritarianism lies with election. The election process involving open transparent vetting of incumbent and new contender having them address scandals, controversies and issues about their candidacy and public record on their political career would be a natural setting in a real democracy.

The election free from myriad election irregularities, illegal campaign financing, domestic and foreign funding, black money infusion and money laundering…to list few among many election violations. The fair election would comply with election rules applicable to all contestants not excluding the ruling power or the major political factions in the race. The known violators of election are presumptuous nominees and candidacies guaranteed victory ignoring electoral outcome.

The authoritarian characteristics typically ban free speech and target truthful, factual and irrefutable analyses and perspectives on government and political leadership’s policy and decisions having adverse impact on people and society.

In a vibrant democracy, the citizens and press would be active and not fearful of raising legitimate queries on any issue without being traced, pursued and punished for exercising constitutional right on freedom of press and expression.

The authoritarian leadership deploy diverse means ranging from character defamation via entertainment such as political party funded movies, documentary and engage in threats and tirades using social media like You Tube, Facebook and Twitter to silence true voices against authority. Here is when tyranny emerge imposing gag order.

In the era where political leadership prioritize showmanship exhibiting false persona is yet another tell tale sign of fascination to stardom over statesmanship.

The staged projection of the leadership petting a leopard cub or filming weekend retreat to Siberia are presented to impress upon gullible mass on leadership prowess and fearlessness. The trend maintained to suppress reality.

In fact for any leadership more than petting a leopard cub or cheetah, the laudable act of bravery would be to persevere and practice democracy facing bold opposition on the side rather than confining political opposition to imprisonment on fabricated charges denying due process. In other parts of the world constitution subverted, election upended to gain or remain in power.

Likewise, the leadership strength is exemplified in democratic engagement with opposition. The democratic leadership would face any candidacy in election in recognition of fundamental rights of all citizens to run for public office including the position of Presidency or Prime Ministership.

The political attributes shine upon leadership ability to deal with challenges and crises accepting responsibility for failures and debacles during governance. Though such character is rare and a tall order, the easier approach finding scapegoat and extraneous factors is authoritarian 2.0 even 5.0 in 5G epoch.

The political leadership dramatic posing in various costumes oscillating from Samrat (Emperor) during political rallies to Sadhu (Hermit) emerging from a cave alluding to self as divine incarnate is delusional depicting desperate megalomaniacal act.

Meanwhile, the leadership miserably missing in action in the domestic and international front in containing pandemic, reversing economic collapse and importantly stymieing enemy invasion and occupation of homeland in the Himalayan region and coast to coast incursion speak volume on failed political performance.

Corruption culture thrives under authoritarianism. The systemic elimination of independent institutions and autonomy is executed abusing extra judicial executive order besides revoking constitutional restraints.

The authoritarian government agenda revolves around them and create stagnant political, economic and social conditions establishing life long appointment in the position of authority. The common tactics also include race baiting, religious discord, caste, class, gender discrimination and any or all divisive measures are considered favorable to extend term in office.

The worst is expecting population to appreciate and acknowledge the system as democratic republic.

These efforts resulting in oppression is indicative of ruling class and political establishment apprehension towards republic uprising and revival of real democracy.

Accordingly, the oligarchy run and funded political leadership and government gamble on resting democracy in coma – permanent sleep and numbness in order to prolong status quo.

Regardless, despotism replacing democracy in any governance geared towards one party system eliminating opposition depriving people representation is classic authoritarianism. 

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant

Author & Presenter 











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