Scope of the Outbreak or Institutional Veto Points: Explaining Varying Government Actions Against the Corona Pandemic

von Aiko Wagner & Sascha Kneip

The corona crisis hit the different European countries differently and government responses were imposed at different speeds. The reasons for these observed divergent trends are not yet clear. Since the goal of government action in response to the corona pandemic – reducing the number of deaths – should be the same in each country, political institutions should be particularly important in explaining the differences in the speed and extent of responses and restrictions. Aiko Wagner (FU Berlin and WZB) and Sascha Kneip (WZB Berlin) test this assumption for its empirical validation. They combine data on the separation of powers and the number of corona-related infections and show that institutional veto points do not explain the differences in the speed and extent of government responses. Instead, they find that the extent of problem pressure in the different countries studied has much more explanatory power.


Democracy and the Great Pestilence

by Prof. John Keane

Sensationalism has focused on fistfights over toilet rolls, but the real story is the withdrawal of democratic oversight, and how little public resistance there is to the declaration of martial law. Power granted is power conceded; and power relinquished is power reclaimed with difficulty.

© Xsandra E+

A civic demos of communitarian demoi – An argument on the EU’s ‘democratic deficit’

by Carsten Gerards

Debating democracy, legitimacy and representation in the EU usually revolves around the European Parliament – a discourse that is not living up to the bloc’s particular nature as a ‘people of peoples’. Contrary, our guest author Carsten Gerards (College of Europe) argues in this blog post, that member states’ parliaments must become an integral part of the equation, both keeping their governments on a short(er) leash and counterbalancing the supranational institutions.

katatonia82 /iStock / Getty Images Plus

Die HĂ€lfte von allem

Warum ein ParitÀtsgesetz die Demokratie stÀrkt*

von Vanessa Wintermantel

Eine fraktionsĂŒbergreifende Initiative setzt sich fĂŒr ein GeschlechterparitĂ€tsgesetz ein, um den Frauenanteil im Bundestag zu erhöhen. EinwĂ€nden, das ParitĂ€tsgesetz sei ein Eingriff in die GrundsĂ€tze der freien und gleichen Wahl, begegnet Vanessa Wintermantel, wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin der Abteilung „Demokratie und Demokratisierung“, in diesem Beitrag mit demokratietheoretischen Argumenten. Denn das ParitĂ€tsgesetz kann ein wichtiger Schritt sein, um struktureller Diskriminierung entgegenzuwirken und die durch die Parteien organisierte politische Willensbildung zu demokratisieren.

Quelle: Mama Congo

The Slovak Presidential Elections: A Tale of Two Strategies

by Seongcheol Kim

The first round of the Slovak presidential elections took place on March 16, 2019, with Zuzana Čaputová of Progressive Slovakia and Smer-backed Maroơ Ơefčovič advancing to the second round taking place on March 30. WZB researcher Seongcheol Kim examines the contrasting discursive strategies of the two candidates in the election campaign thus far, especially their competing attempts to appeal to conservative voters.

sources: David Duducz for and Jozef Jakubčo for SME

The Handbook of Political, Social, and Economic Transformation



What do the so-called Meiji restorations in Japan in the 1860s, the great transformations to Bolshevism and fascism in the 1920s and 1930s have in common? They’re all discussed in „The Handbook of Political, Social, and Economic Transformation“ edited by Wolfgang Merkel, Raj Kollmorgen, and Hans-Jurgen Wagener. The English translation is out now:



Schließen Freiheit und Gleichheit einander aus? – Empirische Antwort auf eine Grundfrage der Demokratie*

von Heiko Giebler und Wolfgang Merkel

Die Demokratietheorie ist sich einig, dass Freiheit und Gleichheit zentral fĂŒr demokratische Ordnungen sind, schwankt aber in der EinschĂ€tzung des VerhĂ€ltnisses dieser beiden Prinzipien. Gerade in der liberalen Theorie wird zu viel Gleichheit als schĂ€dlich fĂŒr die Freiheit gedeutet. Die WZB Forscher Dr. Heiko Giebler und Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Merkel untersuchen, ob ein Zielkonflikt zwischen Freiheit und Gleichheit existiert. Mit Blick auf die Situation in mehr als 50 Demokratien kann empirisch gezeigt werden, dass in demokratischen Gesellschaften Freiheit und Gleichheit kaum miteinander in Konflikt geraten, sondern sich meist wechselseitig verstĂ€rken.

Scales of Justice background – legal law concepts


Hungary before the Elections: Understanding the Hegemony Project of Fidesz

By Seongcheol Kim

Eight years into the rule of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, Hungary offers a particularly fascinating case for a discourse and hegemony analysis that examines how hegemonies institute, redefine, and displace the frontiers defining the social space.[1] What is notable in the discourse of Fidesz is that in the last 20-odd years, a core set of key signifiers or nodal points such as “homeland” or “nation” has been articulated around shifting oppositions and, in the past eight years, has been tied to a systematic attempt to institute a new type of regime – first under the name of the “System of National Cooperation” following the Fidesz landslide of 2010 and then under the internationally catchier heading of an “illiberal state.” The hegemony project of Fidesz, in a sense, takes onto a whole new level of institutional radicality the aim of every hegemonic project: namely, the redefining of the coordinates of the social. As Orbán openly declared in a 2009 speech:


Three Theses on the Czech Election Results

In this analyses of the Czech election results our research fellow Seongcheol Kim argues that the results of the recent Czech parliamentary elections mirror the populism / anti-populism conflict in the Czech party system, while the dramatic decline of previosuly established parties signals a seismic shift in the party system and its central cleavages. 

Andrej BabiĆĄ at the ANO press conference on election night (photo by DivĂ­ĆĄek Martin for denĂ­

For background on the election campaign, please see Seongcheol`s previous post here.