Autocrats like Erdoğan make the worst leaders during COVID-19 - Guardian

Authoritarian leaders around the world, such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, make for the worst leaders during a pandemic and have grossly mishandled and misjudged the COVID-19 crisis, a columnist in the Guardian said on Sunday.

The worst perming leaders tend to share similar dysfunctional characteristics such as a fixation on war metaphors, a lack of imagination, an inclination towards exploiting or exacerbating the pandemic, and a lack of empathy for its victims despite their professed populism, Simon Tisdall said. 

“Broadly speaking, illiberal leaders who run authoritarian regimes, refuse democratic and legal constraints, abuse civil and women’s rights, reject media scrutiny, tolerate corruption, and believe that they, personally, know best are the worst-behaved, least effective pandemic performers,” Tisdall said.

Alongside illiberal leaders in the United States, Philippines, Hungary, China, India, and Russia, Tisdall also singled out Erdoğan for criticism, and said that his initial response to COVID-19 was to put the economy and his own political fortunes before lives.

“Erdoğan is accused, like [U.S. President Donald] Trump, of politicising the crisis, for example by banning fundraising efforts by opposition-controlled city councils in Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara,” he said. “The impressive performance of Istanbul’s mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, a possible 2023 presidential rival, is said to worry him more than the disease.”

Tisdall said Erdoğan’s rushed curfews and coronavirus containment measures had caused panic buying and confusion, and that he had “fumbled a chance to foster unity of purpose when an early release of prisoners excluded jailed political opponents, journalists and human rights activists”.

“The world expects better of Turkey,” Tisdall added.

He said that, while some people may understandably despair, there may be a positive dividend for progressives if autocrats are recognised to be ill equipped to deal with such crises.

“Maybe people around the world, shocked by all the high-handed bungling, will begin to resist and reverse the recent trend towards authoritarianism,” he said.