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Laura Thornton: 'How does democracy work six feet apart?'

April 14, 2020
Laura Thornton
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this commentary are those of the staff member. This commentary is independent of specific national or political interests. Views expressed do not necessarily represent the institutional position of International IDEA, its Board of Advisers or its Council of Member States.
The corona virus has disrupted virtually all aspects of our lives and there is much speculation about both the effectiveness of democracy to handle the crisis and the impact the virus will have on democratic institutions and processes in the short and long term.  

For an expert opinion on this subject Caucasian Journal has turned to Laura THORNTON, Director for Global Programme at Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Until recently Laura has headed National Democratic Institute in Tbilisi, and is well known in our region. 


Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ: Much has been said about autocracies being “better equipped” to handle corona due to their ability to take draconian measures. How would you respond to this? 
LT: Yes, there is plenty of bemoaning the inability of democracies to quickly adopt the tough measures, including limiting freedoms, to address the virus, the assumption being that non- or hybrid- democracies do this more effectively as they are not hindered by checks or bureaucracy, like China and Singapore. This position is, of course, swiftly countered by those pointing out the successes of democracies like Germany, Taiwan, and South Korea, where immediate and efficient actions – including large scale testing, tracking, and isolating cases – have proven effective. There is also evidence of established democracies crippled by incompetence and bureaucracy. Successful responses reflect mostly the competence and efficacy of states and, in my view, provide a more compelling case than ever for good governance – efficient, nimble, responsive, transparent, and organized.
Read the full interview at Caucasian Journal.
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