March 22, 2018 12:05 AM NPT
As Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping extend their terms in office, the two communist states are entering a new era of autocracy.
Political rights and civil liberties around the world deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade in 2017, according to U.S.-based Freedom House. Since 2006, 113 countries have seen a net decline to democracy, and only 62 have experienced a net improvement.
Under 18 years of Putin’s leadership, corruption has spread to all levels of government and business while the Kremlin’s foreign policy appears driven by media manipulation, fake news, cyber attacks and trolls.
Freedom House paints a picture of Russia carrying out disinformation campaigns before elections in the U.S., France, and Germany, cultivating far-right parties across Europe, threatening or invading its neighbors, and supplying military aid to Middle Eastern dictatorships. In China, the constitutional change to allow Xi to become president for life harks back to the one-man rule of the Mao era. Beijing has built up a propaganda and censorship apparatus with global reach and has used economic pressure to support repressive governments from Southeast Asia to Africa.
Experts have already dubbed Egypt’s presidential election on March 26-28 as a “sham” and predict that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will win a second presidential term after eliminating any real political opposition. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking control over the judiciary, and scrapping the office of the Prime Minister following an unpopular constitutional referendum to create a “super-presidential” system. His response to the July 2016 coup attempt has become a witch hunt, resulting in the arrest of some 60,000 people and the closure of over 160 media outlets.
Erdogan has arrested scores of people for “spreading terrorist propaganda” in a crackdown against criticism of Ankara’s offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish militias that are a force against so-called Islamic State.