The exception now the rule: a risk to democracy?
Many governments have granted themselves special powers in the coronavirus crisis. As the pandemic drags on and autumn threatens to bring new tightened requirements, observers ask: does this exceptional situation justify a concentration of power in the hands of leaders and restrictions on civil rights? Will democracy be the next victim of the pandemic?
Fear is a bad advisor
In an opinion piece for the Tages-Anzeiger, lawyer Thomas Manhart warns against limiting individual rights so as to protect collective health:
“Democracy is regularly weakened in times of crisis, i.e. whenever great uncertainty prevails. We don't need to go back 90 years to find parallels. A look at Russia, the US, Hungary or Turkey, and now unfortunately also Switzerland, the home of direct democracy, reveals a similar picture today. Uncertainty and fear are always bad advisors and even worse legislators. ... It is striking that in the current political debate, especially that among the authorities, the rights of the individual are being subordinated to collective health. This is dangerous. And it goes against our constitution.”
Democracy can also cope with Covid
The Danish minority government was given special powers during the coronavirus crisis and can adopt certain measures by decree, however this right will expire automatically at the beginning of 2021. Due to increasing infection rates the government is now considering new measures. Berlingske wants the special powers to be abolished now:
“We must speed up the revision. Democracy, as we know from the time before coronavirus, can cope very well with the current difficult epidemiological situation. It's unhealthy that a minority government should be granted powers as extensive as ours is now receiving. It's time for the people's government to deal with the pandemic and its consequences, which will have a decisive impact on so many aspects of Danish society for many years to come.”
Clear communication is the name of the game
Politicians must communicate all the more carefully in the Covid-19 crisis, Kurier warns:
“The interested public should not be informed every day or half day. That's too much. ... Specific forecasts about how the pandemic will develop should be avoided at all costs. If a decision-maker predicts that 'soon everyone will know someone who died of corona' but is proved wrong - thank goodness! - he or she will make the voters angry, just like someone who is overly optimistic when they say that there will be a vaccination by January. The pandemic policy is a ride on a razor's edge, and much is uncertain. But one thing remains the same: those who confuse or alienate citizens lose their support. And that is exactly what we can't afford.”
Opposition must get to work
The Estonian parliament convened for the first time on Monday after a long summer break. ERR Online outlines the shortcomings of Estonian democracy in the coronavirus crisis:
“The government has certainly done stupid things, but the media did more to expose them than the opposition did. The deep polarisation of the political landscape is not good either for the state or for the people, because this autumn we need substantive debates on the steps that must be taken in economic and health policy. And there is another problem: the opposition is unable to offer an alternative. Or has anyone heard about a concrete plan by the opposition to get the Estonian economy out of the profound coronavirus crisis?”