Parliaments and Crisis: Challenges and Innovations is the new Parliamentary Primer produced by the INTER PARES project, funded by the European Union and delivered by International IDEA. Written in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the Primer looks at how democratic parliaments play a crucial role in making good decisions and protecting citizens’ rights during a crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has deeply impacted how we are governed. Democracies have had to adapt to operating under extreme time pressure, without losing the advantages of transparency, citizen voice, and effective policy feedback loops, that make democracy the most effective and just governance system.

Parliaments are the core democratic institution representing citizens throughout the policy cycle; in creating legislative rules that govern society, in ensuring that government implements legislated programmes effectively and fairly, in voting the use of taxpayers’ resources to pay for government services, and in ensuring the diverse views of citizens are heard at every stage. During a crisis, parliaments must carry out the same functions, but more rapidly, and in often adverse circumstances.

This Primer focuses on particularly two aspects of parliaments’ responses. First, it looks at how parliaments ensured that emergency measures considered the needs of all parts of the population, and also that any emergency government powers were both limited in time and scope, and subject to parliamentary oversight. Second, the Primer examines how parliaments implemented innovative solutions to enable virtual functioning. The Primer concludes by exploring how parliaments can play a key role in reviewing how effectively government responded to the crisis, identifying lessons to be implemented in improved crisis and disaster planning.


Publication date
11 May 2020
Jonathan Murphy
Number of pages
978-91-7671-308-2 (PDF)
978-91-7671-307-5 (Print)



1. Introduction

2. Planning for and confronting disaster—heroic autocracy or collective collaboration?

3. Parliaments and the 2019–2020 coronavirus pandemic

4. How parliaments responded to coronavirus—a country overview

5. How parliaments played a crucial role in governance during the pandemic

6. Deliberating, enacting and limiting special powers

7. Innovating to function during crisis

8. Enabling virtual functioning—legal and constitutional issues

9. Functioning during crisis—not a new phenomenon for parliaments

10. Learning from previous crises—an important role of parliaments

11. Parliaments and disaster planning

12. Planning for the unforeseeable? Looking at the big picture

13. Conclusions




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Parliaments and Crisis: Challenges and Innovations

Parliamentary Primer No. 1
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