FW de Klerk is one of about 500 signatories to a document abusing measures put in place to combat Covid-19.
The signatories include 73 pro-democracy institutions, 13 Nobel Prize winners and 62 former heads of state.
Some of the people who signed it in their personal capacity include:
- Graça Machel, former president Nelson Mandela’s widow, on behalf of her own foundation and in her capacity as executive chair of the Mandela Foundation for Development Studies;
- Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and Nobel laureate;
- Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State; and
- Garry Kasparof, chess master and chair of the International Human Rights Foundation.
“Authoritarian regimes use the crisis to shut down critics’ mouths and strengthen their political grip,” says their statement, issued yesterday in Stockholm, Sweden, by the Foundation for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (Idea).
“Even some democratically elected governments are combating the pandemic by appropriating emergency powers for themselves that curb human rights and tighten state oversight, without regard to legal restrictions or parliamentary oversight.”
According to the International Center for Non-Profit Legal Aid in the US, more than 80 countries have introduced stringent measures ranging from evening clock rules to extra surveillance, censorship and executive powers.
Idea says the pandemic has already led to the postponement of 66 elections – a third of them national elections.
Nearly 50 countries have imposed some form of freedom of the press.
Of these, 21 are recognized democracies.
The overall effect is a dilution of democratic norms, which has implications for political freedom and governments’ own ability to deal with crises in the future, the statement says.
Some of the countries whose names are highlighted are the Philippines, Hungary, El Salvador and Turkey.
Former Costa Rica deputy president Kevin Casas-Zamora was one of the signatories.
“There are legitimate reasons for proclaiming emergency powers, but it is always problematic when a government uses it to curb independent media and other fundamental rights,” he said.
“We want to draw attention to the pressure on democracy in the midst of the crisis.”
According to the document, stringent measures can lead to citizens accepting authoritarian action more and more than normal.
“Democracy is under threat and people who care about it must display the will, the discipline and the solidarity to defend it.
“Freedom, health and the dignity of people everywhere are at stake,” the document states. – Reuters