Photo credit unsplash/Timon Studler

Democracy and rights

Portrait photo of Professor Simon Hix


Professor Simon Hix

Theme lead

The virus unleashed what The Economist called a “pandemic of power grabs”, as would-be autocrats take advantage of the emergency to limit rights and grant themselves enhanced powers. The attack by authoritarian populists against the institution of liberal democracy has become even more formidable, while autocrats who manipulate or hide death counts remind the world why democracy and press freedom are so important — and how crucial they are to ensuring a responsive government. Will democracy or autocracy emerge the winner from the pandemic? As governments, corporates and individuals look to develop ways to control exposure to COVID-19 through the collective use of private data (e.g. to enable contact tracing or the need to prove that one is virus-free), will the balance between individual privacy and the needs of the state and others to access and use private data be fundamentally reset? What does an online election campaign look like, can e-voting be secure, and could these mechanisms reinvigorate democracy, particularly amongst younger generations?