Worth the Sacrifice? Illiberal and Authoritarian Practices during Covid-19
27 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2020
Date Written: September 2020
Excessive use of emergency powers and limitations of media freedoms have raised concerns that Covid-19 is infecting democracy itself. How do government responses to Covid-19 violate democratic standards? How do such violations relate to the countries’ success in limiting the Covid-19 death tolls? We propose a novel conceptualization of which government responses to Covid-19 qualify as a violation of democratic standards and measure such violations using a regularly updated dataset covering 143 countries from March 2020 onward. Our data track seven types of violations of democratic standards for emergency measures during the Covid-19 pandemic: discriminatory measures, derogation of non-derogable rights, abusive enforcement, no time limit on emergency measures, disproportionate limitations on the role of the legislature, official disinformation campaigns, and restrictions on media freedoms. In this article, we provide a comprehensive overview of the extent to which governments have violated democratic standards in their response to Covid-19. Using a regression analysis, we find no relationship between violations of democratic standards for emergency measures and Covid-19 death rates. Thus, violations of democratic standards during the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be justified by the achievement of better public health outcomes. Rather, such crisis driven violations need to be carefully observed as they could signal autocratization.
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