Democracies in the shadow of the pandemic: elections during the public health emergency in the Visegrád countries

The corona virus crisis lead to severe restrictions almost globally, and amongst several fundamental rights, right to vote was also concerned. Should we organise elections under the same terms, as earlier? Or should we adapt the voting system with technical rules to the new challenges? Or should we extend the system of postal- and electronic voting to minimise the number of personal meetings as much as possible?
The answers of the Visegrád countries will be examined, and on the ground of this comparative assessment, certain insights would be provided about the expected future of the electoral procedure, which may bring the spread of the postal and electronic voting, as well as the introduction of several new technical rules. Finally, alternative electoral regimes would be elaborated, which would ground on the combined elements of the traditional voting system, by additional public health requirements, and also by the extensive application of the postal- and the electronic voting.

Unprecedented perspectives of comparative constitutional law: constitutional court case law during the Covid19 pandemic.

Our research project aims to map out the constitutional implications of the Covid-19 pandemic with a global database from the related constitutional case law. Several scholars have pointed out several legal aspects of the public health emergency during the recent months. Significant contributions have focused on the extra-ordinary restrictions on fundamental rights and also the separation of powers aspects of the crisis. However the comparative analysis of the related constitutional case law is still to be systematized by the literature. The constitutional courts (or supreme courts with constitutional review competencies) have reflected on several aspects of the pandemic. The deeper understanding of this constitutional practice would lead to the reconsideration of several issues even in the theoretical and practical field concerning the scope and the extent of emergencies, and also on the limitations on fundamental rights during these periods.

How to measure the rule of law violations during emergency situations?

It is a widespread view in the academic literature that nationalist populists prefer emergencies because in those situations people are willing to give strong empowerment to the government or give up certain rights if they feel their lives, health or property are threatened and expect the central government to avert the threat. Such situations are used by populists to build, consolidate, reinforce or perpetuate their own power. This paper examines the criteria for assessing whether or not a political system is using its exceptional power for its own benefit.
The paper then uses these criteria to evaluate the particular case of Hungary, which often seen as a model country for nationalist populism, where there has been a state of emergency for two years. The final part draws conclusions and tries to explore whether the Hungarian experience can be generalised.

Austrian Ambivalences in Addressing COVID-19

Austria´s governmental responses to COVID-19 could be told in two different narratives:
A state of emergency was never declared in Austria, constitutional law was not significantly amended, and remote concepts of the parliament have not been introduced. The Austrian Constitutional Court (ACC) was continuously working and punctually identifying infringements of the rule of law or fundamental rights.
The ACC, however, decided not in a summary proceeding and typically after the COVID-19 measures have been out of force. The Austrian government often changed strategies and communicated news via press conferences, which made it impossible for the ordinary people to know exactly which rules have been relevant.
In conclusion, Austrian democracy can learn a lot from the COVID-19 crisis. Different structural reforms could be initiated, but liberal democracy has not been threatened by the pandemic.