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In brief | 29/04/2021

COVID-19 and Executive Personalisation: New Research Project to Kick Off in November 2021

Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) with over EUR 820,000, a new research project at the GIGA will examine how chief executives have bolstered their personal grasp on power during the COVID-19 pandemic.


    When COVID-19 began to spread, leaders around the world were forced to grapple with it. International media provided plenty of evidence – from Russia to the United States, from Hungary to Brazil – revealing that power concentration in the hands of the chief executive was becoming ubiquitous and suggesting that a global increase of personalisation of executive power might be underway. Executive personalisation – the process by which the chief executive’s discretionary power grows at the expense of other political actors – may have long-lasting negative policy consequences across political regimes.

    The new project seeks to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the personalisation of executive power in the Global South by collecting empirical data from before and during the pandemic across 36 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the MENA region, focusing on three policy areas in each country: public health, internal security, and economic policy. The project contributes to the burgeoning literature on democratic backsliding and autocratisation, the emerging research on the political impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the area studies scholarship that has long tracked patterns and processes of personalisation within the Global South.

    The project is co-led by Dr. David Kuehn from the GIGA Institute for Asian Studies, Prof. Dr. Mariana Llanos from the GIGA Institute for Latin American Studies, and Dr. Thomas Richter from the GIGA Institute for Middle East Studies. Research will be conducted as part of the GIGA’s Research Programme “Accountability and Participation”.

    An initial paper by David Kuehn, Mariana Llanos, and Thomas Richter on the project’s topics has been published as part of the GIGA Focus Global series.

    Currently, the project seeks to hire one postdoctoral research fellow (100%) to work on sub-Saharan Africa and a comparative study on public health, and one research fellow (65%) to contribute expertise in statistical methods.

    The project is funded for up to three years as part of the DFG’s initiative to spur multidisciplinary research into epidemics and pandemics in response to the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2.

    More information about the project “COVID-19 and Executive Personalisation in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the MENA Region”