Are emergency measures in response to COVID-19 a threat to democracy?

Fact and Fiction – The case of North Macedonia

  • Marijana Opashinova Shundovska

Abstract

The unprecedented outbreak and spread of the COVID-19 virus in the world and its grave consequences on human health, the economy and the everyday life forced national parliaments either to change its standard work mode or transfer their constitutional competences to the executive by declaring state of emergency. The detrimental effects of this unorthodox situation, especially on functioning of democracies, government branches’ division, economic disturbances and losses of jobs are yet to be determined and analyzed. Not expecting that the virus will reach pandemic proportions, the Macedonian parliament was dissolved for early parliamentary elections that ought to be carried out by a technical government, a commitment taken from the Przino Agreement in 2015. The state had faced a unique situation to get through the pandemic with a dissolved parliament and a technical government with limited competences. The constitutional vagueness regarding the work of the parliament in emergency situations and the duration of mandate of the parliamentarians allowing for different interpretation thereof, made the situation even more complicated than before. Consequently, the Government had to propose a proclamation of state of emergency for the first time since the independence, in order to be able to adopt legally binding regulations to manage the crisis. The State President proclaimed state of emergency on 18 March 2020 that had to be extended two more times, once for an additional 30 days and another for 8 days, in order to observe the electoral deadlines for the re-scheduled parliamentary elections. Some experts have strongly argued that the government with its hands untied in these challenging and de-parliamentarized times might abuse its competences by adopting regulations that have nothing to do with the state of emergency. This paper will reflect on the unique political and legislative processes in the state and its effects on the parliamentary democracy.

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Published
2021-03-03