Zombie democracy

Zombie democracy April 27, 2015

Christopher Walker tells how authoritarian governments are trying to make themselves seem legitimate by constructing a facade of democracy, complete with (fixed) elections, (controlled) news organizations, and even government-sponsored non-governmental organizations, such as human rights groups, election monitors, and environmental groups–all of which work to make the dictators look good and are wreaking havoc in the U.N. and international conferences.

From Christopher Walker, Welcome to the alternate universe of faux democracy – The Washington Post:

Authoritarian regimes create a facade of democracy to maintain a veneer of legitimacy. By constructing fake political parties and phony social movements, as well as pseudo news media and GONGOs (government-operated nongovernmental organizations), autocrats simulate democratic institutions to prevent authentic democracy from ever taking root.

Over time, these regimes have taken their imitation to a new level. With the principal goal of keeping their grip on power, modern authoritarians have built a sophisticated alternate universe of institutions: faux news outlets with state-of-the-art production values, professional-looking think tanks that churn out ideas just as their democratic counterparts do and even pretend election monitors that ape the activities of authentic monitors.

This modernized mimicry is a feature of the recent authoritarian resurgence that has created complex obstacles for democrats in autocratic settings around the globe.

Not content to remain at home, however, repressive regimes have projected imitation initiatives into other countries, as well as regional and supranational rules-based organizations.

Authoritarian-backed GONGOs, for instance, routinely insinuate themselves into the proceedings of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review and the Human Dimension Implementation Meetings of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Chinese government-aligned “nongovernmental” organizations take part in U.N. meetings to push the line of Chinese authorities. In October 2013, several Chinese GONGOs descended on Geneva to slavishly tout China’s achievements in the sphere of civil society as the Human Rights Council reviewed China’s rights record. In fact, China has one of the world’s most repressive environments for independent civil society. At last year’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Kremlin-backed GONGOs stayed true to form and sought to muddy the waters about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Cuban and Venezuelan governments brought GONGOs to the recent Summit of the Americas in Panama with the aim of presenting regime-backed groups as their authentic civil society.

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