Pandemic Backsliding

The Pandemic Backsliding Project assesses the extent to which governments are violating democratic standards for emergency provisions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The data can be accessed easily from an online dashboard. The full documentation of coding, data sources, and comments for each country and variable are accessible online at GitHub. This Policy Brief summarizes key insights from our analysis. For further details and an empirical analysis, see our published research article at Social Science and Medicine.

Emergency provisions - such as the ones in place in many countries during the current Covid-19 crisis - enable states to temporarily limit personal freedoms and checks and balances to react effectively in situations of crisis. However, previous research shows that some leaders abuse such tools to foster more permanent autocratization by (a) imposing measures that are disproportionate to the severity of crises and (b) keeping emergency provisions in place once the factual situation improves (see Lührmann and Rooney, 2020). How can states effectively respond to crises without undermining democratic standards, freedom and human rights? 

The Pandemic Backsliding Project aims to track state responses to the Covid-19 pandemic as illustrative of the varieties of emergency measures and their execution, addressing how these decisions affect short- and long-term prospects for the political regime and democracy. Driven by the very real risk that the Covid-19 pandemic will be abused and contribute to further autocratization, our project addresses the following questions: Which countries enacted what type of emergency provisions? To what extent were civil liberties and political institutions that provided constraints on executive power undermined or even suspended? Did the measures meet the UN standards of being “proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory”? Which countries went back to the status quo after the end of the crisis and which did not do so?