How to uphold democratic values while fighting COVID-19


Experts fear that, as a consequence of pandemic shutdowns and slumping economies, tens of millions in Latin America will be pushed deeper into poverty, erasing multiple generations of social progress achieved in various countries. That may well have knock-on political effects once the pandemic passes and popular anger flares, The Post reports.

“Optimists think that the overriding lesson of covid-19 is that democratic governments, armed with science and openness, are doing a better job than populists, and that voters will reward them,” noted the Economist, referencing the disease caused by the coronavirus. “That may be so in richer parts of the world. In Latin America opposition to incumbents, whether populists or democrats, is more likely to be the trend.”

The pandemic poses serious threats to democracy, according to “A Call to Defend Democracy”, an Open Letter initiated this week by the Stockholm-based International IDEA and the US-based National Endowment for Democracy.

“This unprecedented demonstration of global solidarity is a sign that democracy, while threatened, is also resilient,” says NED President Carl Gershman, one of over 500 signatories. COVID-19 represents what you might call a battle of narratives between authoritarian countries and democracies, he told Forum 2000.

June 27, 2020, marks the 20th anniversary of the Community of Democracies and its founding document, the Warsaw Declaration. Democracies should respond to the global pandemic through renewed adherence to the Declaration’s democratic principles, Member States said today. 

As a result of the Covid pandemic, the anxieties that have surrounded democracy for at least half a century have in recent years grown in scale, complexity and intensity, according to a new analysis. This is linked to the emergence of a clear populist signal, the growth of anti-political sentiment and—critically—the emergence of a clear ‘trust gap’ between the governors and the governed, says the University of Sheffield’s Matthew Flinders.


Keeping democracy healthy during a pandemic has already proved problematic in many countries where politicians have seized upon the crisis in order to claim emergency powers and strengthen their position, he writes for Parliamentary Affairs:

At the same time, the victorious claims of countries such as China and Singapore have raised potentially far-reaching questions about whether authoritarian regimes handle pandemics more effectively than democratic ones. The fact that this is happening in a global context that already contained an ‘autocratization alert’, concerns about ‘democratic backsliding’ (see IDEA, 2019) and an increase in populist pressures simply underlines this article’s emphasis on the need to understand the link—or more specifically the interplay—between the ‘new’ Covid-focused crisis and the pre-existing democratic crisis. 

There is a very real risk that the coronavirus crisis will fuel a broader crisis of democracy, Finders adds, if we fail to appreciate:

(i) the fragility and significance of public trust

(ii) the potentially pathological impacts of blame-games or

(iii) understanding the achievements of individuals and institutions working together to address a collective threat. RTWT

For #PoliticalParties unsure of how to communicate with their members and the public during the #COVID19 #crisis@NDI’s new Crisis Communication Guide is a must-read. Check out it here, available in #English and #Arabic

How to uphold democratic values while fighting COVID-19? the Breugel Institute asks (above) in a discussion with Sam Fleming, Brussels bureau chief, Financial Times; Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, European Commission; Michael Leigh, Senior Fellow.

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