How populists reacted to COVID-19


The rise of Coronavirus is seen to be causing socio-economic failures because of ignorant government systems. At the same time, it has brought forward the incompetent nature and lack of leadership qualities amongst the leaders, in dealing with the pandemic. According to Carl Sagan, — “Widespread intellectual and moral docility maybe convenient for leaders in the short term, but it is suicidal for nations in the long run”, which has played out to be true during the health crisis of 2020.

Instead of coming up with policies to contain the virus, the populist parties are trying to deviate from the agenda; Mexico’s AMLO is talking about advances in construction of New Mexico whereas the U.S President, Trump is putting out loud that everything is fine and blaming media  and the Democrats for trying to put his popularity at stake for the coming elections. In other words, they are trying to deviate public attention away from the catastrophic consequences of their inaction and wanting to make the headlines about them.

The Hungary President, Victor Obron put forward a law, clearly trying to preclude public anger, as anyone found to outbreak anti-pandemic measures or found spreading false information would be sentenced to three years of jail, which was passed by the Parliament. The inability of the government to supply medical equipment for hospitals, proper Covid 19 test kits, beds for patients; etc. has already geared up a massive amount of criticism for the populist leaders. Whereas the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has been seen going against the lockdown in the country by getting down on roads with locals, attending rallies and proclaiming the virus to be  “a fantasy”, “a measly cold”, rather than accepting advice by the WHO and scientists to maintain social distancing. He even incited the public, lashing out against the local authorities proclaiming them to be the reason for the falling economy.

While U.S President Donald Trump on the other hand proclaimed coronavirus as Democrat’s malicious deception and went ahead to announce that he wanted U.S economy to be running by Easter. This led to a drastic increase in the rate of people, affected by the virus. Trump instead of battling against the health crisis was rather seen playing a blame game against China. Similarly, in South Asia we saw the Indian Prime Minister imposing a sudden lockdown without drawing out any policies for the migrant workers, who were left jobless. With all means of transport being suspended, the migrants flooded on highways walking down to reach their villages, causing nearly 20 deaths in the process. Pakistan’s prime minister asked the people to not panic and waited for the situation to worsen. The mosques were left open to offer prayer; hence faced criticism by the doctors, again leading to an increase in the spread of virus.

Covid 19 is surely to be followed by a deep economic crisis similar to the 2008 financial crisis and the populist leaders have shown their inability to deal with the health crisis and economic affairs of the country. The populist leaders are now being tested for their credibility. The “all is good” narrative being put forward by them, “that no problem is too great or difficult to solve” and blaming others for the risk caused is just a cover sheet. If taking politically and economically difficult measures to deal with the pandemic was not a necessary option for these leaders then how can we rely on them for post Covid 19 recovery? It is clear the the populist leaders underestimated the pandemic and tried to appease the market rather than drawing out policies for a state of emergency. But we see that nations like — South Korea, Canada, New Zealand, Germany came out with prompt actions, hence avoiding a disaster.

It is yet too soon to predict if the populists will suffer or come out to be strong post Covid 19. But they’ve offered the public a glimpse of their gimmick leadership qualities. The people expect leaders to anticipate and understand events in order to act timely rather than making a ground for their political tactics. Although Covid 19 has showed us that there is no cure for the pandemic; it has also put forward the capability and credibility of populist governments at stake.

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