Brazil: COVID-19, Illiberal Politics and the Rule of Law

The denialist approach that the Brazilian government adopted to the COVID-19 pandemic makes the country an interesting case study of the consequences of politicised and populist responses to the virus. President Bolsonaro’s ‘underreach’ politics were based on a permanent strategy of exposing the population to the virus in the hope of herd immunity, even after consensus had emerged on the inefficacy of such an approach. This paper reconstructs the central aspects of this response, and assesses the implications for future pandemic preparedness in Brazil.

COVID-19: A Crisis of Rights and Democracy in India

This paper examines the response to the pandemic in India, highlighting four main features: lack of transparency, executive monopoly, suppression of civil liberties and reckless management. The executive in India perpetuated a rule of secrecy by announcing lockdowns belatedly, setting up an opaque relief fund, and promoting misinformation on crucial aspects of the pandemic response. During the crisis period, India witnessed a concentration of powers at the centre, with very little role for the states and other players in decision making. Legislative and judicial accountability suffered patent setbacks. Further, the government succeeded in curtailing human rights, including the right to political mobilisation and speech, through arrests, vilification and propaganda. The paper argues that India needs to revive the principles of transparency, accountability and protection of human rights, to resist the sliding away of democracy and ensure preparedness for future emergencies.

COVID-19, the United States and Evidence-Based Politics

The populist attack on evidence-based politics in the United States during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a public policy too often based on ideology, partisanship and wishful thinking rather than on scientific consensus. Institutions that might have blunted the populist challenge to evidence-based politics had been captured before the pandemic or were captured during it, including the Supreme Court. Hundreds of thousands of people may have died because President Trump was uninterested in science (or in governing). This paper traces the course of the pandemic response in the United States through the Trump and Biden administrations, highlighting ongoing threats to democracy and the rule of law in the form of, inter alia, voter suppression and activities in Republican-controlled states that lie outside the parameters of normal democratic and evidence-based politics.

COVID-19 and Emergency Powers in Western European Democracies: Trends and Issues

This paper addresses the legal reactions of several Western European democracies to COVID-19. It first offers an overview of whether and how the constitutions of selected Western European countries regulate emergency, so as to attempt a categorisation of emergency powers. Secondly, the analysis considers whether (or not) these emergency models were applied in the fight against the pandemic caused by COVID-19. In doing so, it finds out that resort to emergency powers as written in constitutions was unusual as a response to the pandemic, since many countries preferred alternative strategies. The conclusion points out that a sort of ‘escape’ from pre-existing emergency powers could be observed and discusses the reasons that may lie behind this choice. Furthermore, the authors provide recommendations as to changes that might be introduced once COVID-19 is over, to improve emergency frameworks and make them suitable to face global emergencies.