Stretching Boundaries: How Chief Executives Expand their Power
As most crises do, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be the “hour of the executive.” Political leaders in democratic and authoritarian regimes across the world have imposed limits on civil liberties and political rights, often with very little involvement from legislatures and civil society. Although many of these measures conformed to expert recommendations on containing the disease, they also provided chief executives with a window of opportunity to bolster their own power.
However, this personalisation is hardly the sole result of the pandemic – rather, it is indicative of longer-term trends towards the erosion of constraints on the executive, which can be witnessed in democracies and autocracies all over the world. In China, President Xi Jinping managed to personalise political power after experiments with institutionalised leadership succession and collective rule. In Latin America, democratically elected leaders such as Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil had already attempted to personalise executive power before the pandemic hit. Similarly, in the Middle East personalisation of political power has been a long-acknowledged phenomenon.
This GIGA Forum/GIGA Talk assesses the evidence of a trend towards personalisation of executive power in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, along with the role the COVID-19 pandemic has played therein.
Prof. Dr. Christian Göbel is a Professor of Sinology at the University of Vienna.
Dr. Mariana Llanos is a Lead Research Fellow at the GIGA Institute for Latin American Studies and Head of the GIGA’s Research Programme “Accountability and Participation.”
Dr. Thomas Richter is a Senior Research Fellow at the GIGA Institute for Middle East Studies.
Dr. Julia Grauvogel is a Senior Research Fellow at the GIGA Institute for African Affairs.
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