“Democracies, without democrats fiercely committed to defending them, are no more solid than houses of cards”

Lhe invasion of the Capitol by Trumpist supporters on January 6, 2021, following the repeated…

Lhe invasion of the Capitol by Trumpist supporters on January 6, 2021, following the repeated contestations of the 2020 US presidential election, may mark the beginning of a new era in the history of democracies, that of the renewal of coups d’etat. The bewildering images of identity extremists and conspirators have undoubtedly inspired many small groups taking note of the weaknesses of the liberal democratic model.

This is the case in Germany, where an attempt to occupy places of power and overthrow of the Federal Republic was foiled by intelligence services in December 2021. The conspiracy – led by an unlikely conglomerate of former Alternative for Germany lawmakers [AfD, parti de droite populiste]retired members of the security forces and an aristocrat nostalgic for the Reich – was stopped short by a major police operation.

This Sunday, January 8, the supporters of Jair Bolsonaro finally only repeated on a larger scale, in Brazil, what had been tried (unsuccessfully) in Washington and Berlin. Therefore, it must be understood the ransacking of the Brazilian Congress, Supreme Court and Presidential Palace as not resulting from a simple improvised anger, but from a deliberate desire to free oneself from democratic rules.

Also listen Brazil: is democracy in danger?

These three recent attempts to overthrow democracy, although occurring in different contexts, obey similar logics. First, there is the installation by the social networks of a suspicion in public opinion, that of the “stolen election”, of the cheating of the power in place or the local authorities, as if a populist leader could only ever be defeated by unfair methods. Then, the completed electoral operations, a resolute, frontal and ideological contestation of the electoral results when they are unfavorable to the candidates of the radical right. No sooner had the election been declared than the illegitimacy lawsuits arose, both before the media and the courts, including to discredit the supreme courts responsible for ruling on future disputes. Finally, the last step, the call to the people and the army to restore by a show of strength in the street what was lost at the ballot box.

Covert Word Threats

This permanent search for confrontation on the part of the extreme right constitutes, on closer inspection, one of the permanent markers of contemporary democracies. It tries in fact by all means, including violence and without any scruple, to cling to power. The weak condemnation of Bolsonaro or the ambiguous attitude of Donald Trump in the face of the actions of force committed by their respective supporters cannot be explained otherwise. Make no mistake about it, to adhere to the speeches of these defeated populist leaders is to excite demagogic excesses with the most total bad faith and to undermine what constitutes the strength of democracy, namely the regulation of conflicts and their arbitration by the citizen ballot.

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