Democracy must not become the silent victim of the coronavirus pandemic

As extraordinary measures to fight the covid-19 pandemic continue to prevail around the world, the Kofi Annan Foundation alongside 28 global leaders have published an open letter calling governments and civil society to act to ensure democracy does not become the silent victim of the Coronavirus pandemic.

With over 50 elections postponed across the globe so far, and 19 having gone ahead in unclear times, the signatories of the Letter express concerns that the legitimacy of democracy itself is being challenged. Signatories include former heads of state, diplomats, advocates, and world leading experts including: Madeleine K. Albright, Former U.S Secretary of State; Laura Chinchilla, Former President of Costa Rica; Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Former President of Nigeria; and Doris Leuthard, Former President of Switzerland.

All around the world, questions are being asked about the sweeping executive powers some governments have used to impose emergency measures and how to limit their long-term impact. More fundamentally, the pandemic is testing the strength and resilience of our political systems.

Countries due to hold elections in the coming months do face a tremendous challenge. They must take draconian measures to prevent the spread of the virus, but also enable citizens to meaningfully participate in the electoral process. Campaign rallies, voter registration, face-to-face debate, and election-day gatherings are all complicated by the situation.

The letter sets out the key steps that global democracies need to take to ensure hard-won democratic rights and the integrity of elections are protected. It recommends striking the right balance between legitimate public health concerns and democratic rights and freedoms by following seven principles: following the rule of law; building consensus around constitutional changes; proportionality; clear communication with the public; time-bound; based on the most up to date technical information; and mindful of particularly affected groups.