IFAIR’s Series in Times of Corona: Today from Serbia / Panama / Spain / UK
The darkening path of Serbian democracy
With the global spread of COVID-19, some countries are dealing not only with the downfall of health systems and economies but also with challenges to democracy. The foundation of the Serbian democratic society is on the verge of breaking and sliding into authoritarianism.
One of the clearest traits of authoritarian governing can be seen in the unlawful move of president Aleksandar Vučić, who suspended the National Assembly and declared the state of emergency, thereby violating the Constitution art. 200(1). This article gives power primarily to the Assembly to declare the state of emergency. Even though the opposition party Dosta je bilo has invited the deputies to raise their voices against the unconstitutional governing of the state, there have been no repercussions. This could be due to 154/250 deputies in the Assembly being affiliated with the leading political party, upcoming parliamentary elections and party employment trend. Such a trend implies that people who are affiliated with the party are more likely to get state jobs, thus, many find themselves in the situation of giving the support to maintain their positions. Arguably, this can be one of the reasons why only eight deputies responded to the complaints made by the opposition. While Vučić is spreading fear and panic, continuously mentioning thousands of deaths as a consequence of the COVID-19 spread, the crisis is being politicized and also used for vote gathering. This especially happened during a 60h long curfew (Friday-Monday), where the party volunteers go door-to-door with a food package encouraging people to vote for the party in the upcoming elections.
Whenever a deep crisis occurs in one society, there is also a chance to rebuild something new, something better. With the growing political awakening amongst the citizens seen in year-long anti-government protests as well as the discontent with the current measurements, this can very much be a turning point for a return to democracy.
About the Author: Ana Mandinic is a master student of International Politics at KU Leuven. She is focusing on societies in transitions to democracies, human ecology and the development field.
In times of Corona – Panama
My wife and I have seen first-hand how the coronavirus pandemic radically changed lives in a short time-frame, not only in Panama, but also across Latin America. Ironically, many of us saw it coming as we watched the news of how the virus was spreading quickly from other regions around the world since January 2020 – but few people in this small country expected that the pandemic would cross its borders by early March.
Unfortunately, many Latin American governments started taking effective action when it was already too late to prevent or to slow down the accelerated contagion rates. However, I think that the response from the Panamanian government was adequate and according to international standards since the first cases were reported. The borders of the country remain closed, and compulsory quarantine measures were put in place since mid-March; obviously, many of us have had to continue working from home, and interacting with friends and relatives from long distance. Although the lockdown measures sometimes feel a bit painful, I agree they are for the best interest of society.
I also think that these times have provided opportunities to show solidarity, as this can be noted in efforts taken in both public and private sectors to provide financial support, medical aid, and food supplies to people in need. Some examples of these efforts include the implementation of a logistics platform that the Panamanian government provided to the International Red Cross, for the storage and transportation of medicine, hygiene and safety products to neighboring countries (“Hub Humanitario Panama”); as well as the implementation of government policies to provide economic subsidies, healthcare and food packages to low-income households; in addition to the charitable donations of money, food, and medical supplies by private citizens and corporations to healthcare institutions and non-government organizations. It is hard to imagine how will the near future look like, but I am sure that our world will not be the same, when we go back to our daily activities outdoors.
About the author: Raul Lujan Anaya , 34 years old, is an International Lawyer who currently provides compliance advisory in the management consulting industry. Mexican, he holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy by the City University of Hong Kong, where he lived for more than four years.
He currently works for The Red Flag Group’s office in Panama City.
As I needed an urgent medicine last night and only wanted to be accompanied by my boyfriend to the pharmacy in the dark, we got stopped and asked by police officers what we would be up to. Instead of listening why we were walking together, we were warned and told to go back home and not leave the house together. As I lacked this remedy and didn’t feel comfortable walking by myself later without him, I told my boyfriend to take the other route back home which would pass another pharmacy. However, two of the police officers and another four (!) stopped us again and told us they would fine us because we didn’t obey their order to go home or continue solely. Even though, I explained my urgency that I needed talk to the pharmacist, the police didn’t have sympathy for it. And they would have fined us if not the only female officer said she would let us go if we would go straight to the pharmacy and return without any complications. On our way back home, we got held up again by other police officers – one of them saw his colleagues warning us the first time. He declared he will mulct us now because we disobeyed what they instructed in the first place. After all, we both got fined without any chance of further discussion.
Yes, there have to be certain measures in order to keep order and prevent further spread of the virus. Yet, in urgent situations when it is no harm given to others and it is the only logical way to act, I don’t have sympathy with such strictness punishing people unjustly that are certainly not part of this problem.
About the author: Franziska Riedmaier studied North American Studies at the University of Munich and is currently living in Barcelona, Spain in order to study Spanish as well as take additional courses in Arabic language and its culture. She is very interested in researches on peace and conflict as well as global sustainability.
‘A fight we never picked, against an enemy we still don’t entirely understand,’
These were the words the prime minister used to describe the threat facing the UK and the world, mere hours after he was discharged from hospital after coming close to death fighting that very same threat.
Coronavirus has affected everywhere in the world in different ways, and each government has deployed different policies to tackle the problem. Beyond ‘flattening the curve’, acquiring personal protective equipment, finding a cure or preventing economic collapse, part of the official response to the crisis has been to foster a sense of national morale.
Every Thursday at 8 in the evening, Britons across the country step outside and clap for the workers of the National Health Service. This communal ritual seeks to bind everyone together and thank the workers of an institution regarded as sacred in British politics.
In taking part in this ritual and paying tribute to ‘Jenny from New Zealand, Luis from Portugal’, Johnson is fostering a collective, national resilience not needed since the darkest days of the Second World War. Invoking that spirt and imagery could backfire; he and others used it for less noble purposes during the Brexit referendum.
But after many years of the UK picking fights with itself, Boris Johnson sees this new battle as one that can end the divides in this country; a sickness that can heal. Whether wartime spirit can defeat both coronavirus and Brexit divisions remains to be seen’
About the author: Teddy Ashworth is an undergraduate studying Anthropology and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen.