Authoritarian tendencies and NATO members: A risk to the intra-alliance stability?


 

Joanna Sozańska

jm.sozanska@gmail.com 

cooperation@sozanska.com 


In political thought, the authoritarian system disapproves of political orientations such as  democracy. The rejection is rooted in the perception that society had to be absolutely submissive to  the authorities. One of NATO's tasks is to promote democratic values and provide a platform for  discussion and consultation for cooperation on defense and security issues. As NATO seeks to  ensure a lasting peace based on the shared values of individual freedom, democracy, human rights  and the rule of law, authoritarian tendencies among certain member states are threatening.

The nature of power in an authoritarian system

In an authoritarian system, power remains with a strong ruling group or individual, and state  organs then function symbolically. There are no representative institutions, which is motivated by  the lack of universal, free elections of power. In an authoritarian dictatorship, the rulers impose their  leadership to the public, which is not subject to real electoral control. The alternative to  legitimizing power is to invoke the leader's unparalleled charisma. The dictator is created as the  father of the nation. In addition, a frequent phenomenon is invoking the good of the state, which  only power can provide. Rulers manipulate society based on the perception that only authority will  ensure social harmony and order. The regime uses a number of factors through which it builds  public confidence, consolidates power and creates legitimacy. One element of strengthening power  is geopolitical issues. The regime creates the appearance of countering a threat to the state that  arrives from a hostile environment. In addition, an authoritarian populist dictatorship uses social  and egalitarian arguments to legitimize power. The rulers portray power as the guardian of society.  The regime also cites unparalleled achievements and competence.

 

Contemporary authoritarian tendencies

Presently, contemporary authoritarian systems, regardless of the instruments of legalized  power, situate the regime above the law or outside the law. Frequently, the law is a tool for  achieving current political goals. Contemporary authoritarian regimes strive for independence from  social control. This is rooted in the perception that citizens do not have the necessary qualifications  and knowledge to assess the nature of state governance or actively participate in the country's  politics . In addition, authoritarian dictatorship appears as a kind of teacher-guardian of the nation,  which undertakes the complex process of educating society. Presently, modern dictatorships,  regardless of the instruments of legalized power, situate the regime above the law or outside the  law. Frequently, the law is a tool for achieving current political goals. Contemporary authoritarian  regimes strive for independence from social control. This is rooted in the perception that citizens do  not have the necessary qualifications and knowledge to assess the nature of state governance or  actively participate in the country's politics . In addition, authoritarian dictatorship appears as a kind  of teacher-guardian of the nation, which undertakes the complex process of educating society.  Dictatorship rule is enveloped by secrecy and inaccessibility to the external sphere. An important  type of dictatorship is a military regime. Power is derived from a group of senior officers, which is  referred to by the term junta. A characteristic feature of junta rule is the militarization of society and  control of authority by the army. In addition, the military junta paralyzes existing laws and the  constitution. During the rule of the army, it emphasizes idealization of power, the unity of the  nation and the order and strength of authority.  

NATO 2022 Strategic Concept: Protecting nations, societies and common values The Madrid Summit, held on June 28-30, 2022, was a crucial meeting of member and  partner countries representatives. Facing the start of the Madrid Summit, Secretary General Jens  Stoltenberg highlighted key areas that will be addressed at the NATO meeting. The NATO Strategic Concept 2022 highlights that ensuring the national and collective security resilience of the  alliance's member states is central to all of NATO's core tasks and underpins efforts to protect  member states, societies and common values. The concept also emphasizes the cross-cutting  importance of human security, political stability of member states, and the women's rights, peace  and security agenda. NATO's vision for the next few years declares the realization of the alliance's  tasks in a relationship of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights and international  law. Moreover, the concept emphasizes the essence of respect for human rights, actions free of  aggression. The provisions of the concept refer to NATO's cooperation with those countries that  share these goals. Faced with the concept, the question occurs as to how Poland, Hungary, Italy and  Turkey are aligned with the present vision?

 

Democracy values protection necessary not limited to Turkey

In 2020, the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg published a  report on the trends of authoritarian states around the world. According to the ranking, the  countries moving fastest toward authoritarianism are Poland (1st place), Hungary (2nd place) and  Turkey (3rd place). By the report, the nature of government in Poland has changed in 10 years from  a liberal democracy (2010) to an electoral democracy (2020). While liberal democracy refers to  democratic governance with individual freedoms, collective freedoms and constitutional freedoms  protected by law, electoral democracy refers to a government based on a system that provides all  citizens with the opportunity to elect a candidate from a list of opponents for political office. For an  election to qualify for democratic fairness, the process must be free and equitable, without  compulsion or bribery tactics, and independent of the incumbent candidates. Unfortunately, with  electoral democracy there is the dilemma of being instrumentalized by populists. The goal is to  undermine liberal democracies around the world. Moreover, the electoral success of populists in  various European countries confirms the democratic credibility of populist regimes shifting toward  authoritarianism. Referring to Hungary and Turkey in the report's ranking, it should be mentioned  that both countries have suffered a shift from electoral democracy (2010) to electoral autocracy (2022). The latest election results, as well as the nature of the current government, indicate that Italy  will join the ranks of countries with authoritarian tendencies among NATO members. Electoral  autocracy grows when authoritarian governments based on a party system hold multi-party elections  to seat the legislatures. It is important to emphasize the clear concerns about the violation of  fundamental rights that are at stake, in such an electoral system. These include the independence of  the judiciary, freedom of speech, media pluralism, academic freedom, the rights of LGBTIQ people,  and the protection of minorities and asylum seekers. As emphasized by Charles Kupchan from the  Council of Foreign Relations, Poland, Turkey, Italy and Hungary should be monitored and  admonished by NATO members. According to Kupchan, NATO should defend democratic values  inside and outside the Alliance.

Conclusions

One of NATO's tasks is to promote democratic values and provide a platform for discussion  and consultation for cooperation on defense and security issues

The NATO Strategic Concept 2022 highlights that ensuring the national and collective  security resilience of the alliance's member states is central to all of NATO's core tasks and  underpins efforts to protect member states, societies and common values

 

NATO's vision for the next few years declares the realization of the alliance's tasks in a  relationship of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights and international  law 

NATO as an alliance should take part in promoting democratic values, an independent  judiciary, open political debate and a free media, as the European Union does, which  supports fundamental freedoms and ways of governing

References  

Adorno T.W., Gesammelte Schriftan, Band 9-1, Soziologische Schriften II 1, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt  am Main 1975, s. 149, [w:] M. Punpur, Podstawy osobowości autorytarnej, Ośrodek  Racjonalistyczno – Sceptyczny im. De Voltaire’a, 2008  

Bankowicz M., Niedemokratyzmy, Kraków 2011

Furtak F., Democracy Under Pressure: The Case of Poland, Hungary and Turkey. J Civil Legal Sci  6: e119, 2017

Grady J., Panel: Rise of Authoritarian Governments Pose Biggest Threat to NATO,  https://news.usni.org/2019/06/28/panel-rise-of-authoritarian-governments-pose-biggest-threat-to nato

Tokarczyk R., Autorytaryzm-dociekanie istoty pojęcia, Historia i Polityka nr 2-3(9-10) 2009-2010,  Lublin 2010

NATO 2022 Strategic Concept, Adopted by Heads of State and Government at the NATO Summit  in Madrid 29 June 2022 

Electoral Democracy, European Center for Populism Studies,  https://www.populismstudies.org/Vocabulary/electoral-democracy/