How Will the Coronavirus Reshape Democracy and Governance Globally?

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a threat, both to governance and democracy. At the same time it may offer new opportunities. Against this backdrop the researchers Frances Z. Brown, Saskia Brechenmacher and Thomas Carothers from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Center have conducted an analysis to consider how the immediate political responses to COVID-19 may reshape governance, democracy and government actions in future.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across regions, countries and continents, the impacts of the disease for governance and democracy are being closely observed. In this regard COVID-19 presents both an opportunity as well as a threat.

On the one hand, the crisis provides political leaders with the opportunity to bid for political power, to consolidate authoritarian tendencies, to fuel corruption and to enhance public surveillance efforts as well as acceptance for these measures. On the other hand, the pandemic allows central and local governments to renegotiate their responsibilities, offers civil society a platform to get involved in helping fellow citizens and allows politicians and citizens to feel better connected and appreciated for effective state responses.

Against this backdrop the researchers Frances Z. Brown, Saskia Brechenmacher and Thomas Carothers from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Center have analysed how the immediate political responses to COVID-19 may reshape governance, democracy and government actions in future. 

According to Brown, Brechenmacher and Carothers there is great concern that measures to fight the pandemic such as centralising the access to power, limiting democratic spaces, restricting fundamental rights, enhancing state surveillance and curtailing the right to demonstrate may not be repealed once the spread of COVID-19 has become manageable.

In addition, all three researchers agree that the COVID-19 measures pose additional risks to democracy due to political actions like postponing elections or extending military power to address civilian affairs. Moreover, they are concerned that these actions may aggravate the issue of shrinking spaces for civil society and will fuel discussions on the effectiveness of authoritarianism versus democratic rule.

To highlight the broader implications of current state responses to the disease for governance, the fundamental requirements for good governance and government stability in relation to economic fragility, health care coverage and equal pay for health professionals are explored. The impacts on socio-political cohesion, corruption, the relationship between national and local entities and non-state actors are equally considered.

In recollection of the long-term consequences of the economic crisis in 2008 for economic inequality, unemployment, indebtedness, the rise of authoritarian regimes and the pressure on party systems, the researchers call on society to react now in order to reduce the devastating impact of COVID-19 on society, governance and democracy.

To access the full article visit the Carnegie Endowment Center for International Peace’s homepage here.