By William Marcotte
The Fight Against Dictatorship
As COVID-19 continues to rage across parts of the globe, and as vaccines begin to roll out to suppress the spread of the virus, a new virus is starting to pop up: authoritarianism. And people are fighting this virus with as much determination as they are battling COVID-19.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1948, with its first government being transitional (1948 to 1962), the military ruling from 1962 until 2011, and democratic elections starting after that. But on February 1 of this year, the military seized control from the recently elected NLD party. This military coup occurred after only 10 years of democratic elections, and only 6 years after the first election that was not mired in fraud and conspiracy. The leader of the NLD party, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been held in detention in an unknown location, along with other members of her NLD party. She currently faces charges of possessing illegal walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, releasing information that would “cause fear and panic,” accepting bribes, and being corrupt. Her legal team has stated that these accusations are “baseless.” The new military junta, led by Min Aung Hlaing, has implemented an Internet blackout, with massive sections of the country reporting no connection to the outside world. The goal is clearly to try to silence information leaving or entering the country, a situation that has lasted for 70 days as of April 13th. As well, for over 30 days, mobile data connections to people outside the country have been blocked, in what is surely a further attempt to silence the public. Even internal news sources are being silenced, with the last private newspaper having been shut down on the 17th of March, leaving only government-controlled ones. But, the population is fighting back. Hundreds of thousands of people have begun mass protesting the military rule, which they have suffered under for too long. Violent clashes between protesters and police or military forces are increasing. Government forces are using water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition to disperse crowds. As of April 13th, there had been at least 700 confirmed deaths in these clashes, according to AAPP (Assistance Association for Political Prisoners).
While the situation in Belarus may not be as explosive, it, too, is experiencing an authoritarian regime. In early August, Belarus’ president, Alexander Lukashenko, was elected for his 6th straight term, in a landslide victory of 80.23% to 9.9%. The victory was so extreme that not even pro-government forces thought it was legitimate. Immediately after the elections, there were massive protests by the citizens. On August 16th, there were between 250,000-450,000 protesters across the country. On August 23rd, there were an estimated half a million protesters across the country protesting the election fraud. But over 30,000 people have been arrested, over 1,000 have been injured, 50 are missing, and 4 have died. Despite international monitors deeming none of the last 5 elections free and fair, only this most recent election was declared by the European Union as not legitimate. Immediately after this declaration, sanctions were fired back and forth between the EU and Belarus, and the situation is still quite tense between the countries.
Along with the two previous countries, Bulgaria is also in the middle of a political crisis. Prime Minister Bokyo Borisev’s rule has lasted from 2009 until now, with only a one year gap in 2013 due to protests. On July 9th of 2020, protests backed by the President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, called for the PM to resign, along with his cabinet and the Chief Prosecutor, Ivan Geshef. The goal of the protests was to remove members of the government involved with the Bulgarian Mafia, as well as to reduce the crippling amount of corruption within the country, which has consistently ranked as the worst in the entire EU. Along with the resignation of Borisev, his cabinet, and the chief prosecutor, the protesters are demanding that the mayor of Sofia, as well as the Director of the main public TV network, BNT, resign. Massive protests have happened across the country, with over 150,000 people protesting in the capital, Sofia, and 400,000 protesting across the entire country. So far in these protests, no one has died, but over 200 people have been injured and hundreds or thousands have been arrested.
These examples all have one thing in common: the people trying to rise up and fight against governments that are oppressing them or destroying their country. But as long as people keep fighting for themselves, their country, and their values, this virus of authoritarianism will be defeated. Stay safe everyone.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020%E2%80%932021_Belarusian_protests (I don’t speak Belarusian so I had to go off of this, but I did check the cited articles that were in English to double check and everything matched up)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020%E2%80%932021_Bulgarian_protests#cite_note-13 (I don’t speak Bulgarian so I had to go off of this, but I did check the cited articles that were in English to double check and everything matched up)