Author Archives: exceptius

Webinar video “Holding elections and voting in times of Covid-19” is now available on YouTube

We invite you to watch the recording of our webinar “Holding elections and voting in times of Covid-19”. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us via contact form for more details.

Webinar Series on Democracy in Distress: Protesting in times of Covid-19

When: Th 27-05-2021 16:00 – 17:30
Where: Online

From the series: Democracy in Distress we are presenting the second webinar on ‘Protesting in times of Covid-19’

Find the LIVE LINK here.

Since the contagion of Covid-19 developed into a worldwide pandemic, governments around the world have introduced a plethora of exceptional measures to combat the spread of the virus. There has been a high degree of volatility associated with public responses to such measures, ranging from high degree of compliance and support to outright public protests. In some cases, protests directly targeted Covid-19 containment measures while in others, the pandemic reinforced pre-existing social movements. What are the drivers of protests in times of Covid-19? How has the pandemic exacerbated political and social divides? What makes democracies more immune from protests than others? The second webinar of the Democracies In Distress series will gather experts from a variety of countries to provide insights into the causes and significance of protests in times of Covid-19.


  • Liliana Zambrano, University of Deusto (Spain) and Pedro Valenzuela, Profesor Titular Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Relaciones Internacionales, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, will focus on the protests in Colombia
  • Maciej Kowalewski, Professor, University of Szczecin (Poland), will provide an analysis on both the relationship between the Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Covid-19 in the United States and the protests from women’s rights in Poland
  • Raul Magni Berton, Professor of Political Science, University of Grenoble (France) and Sarah Moretti, MA research assistant, will analyse the impact of Covid-19 on the protests in France
  • William Yang, correspondent of the Deutsche Welle in East Asia, will speak on the protests that have occurred in Hong Kong

Presentations will be followed by a debate with the audience.

Webinar Series on Democracy in Distress – ‘Holding elections and voting in times of Covid-19’

When: Th 29-04-2021 16:00 – 17:30
Where: Online

From the series: Democracy in Distress we are presenting the first webinar on ‘Holding elections and voting in times of Covid-19’


For more than one year now, the Covid-19 crisis has affected our private and public life in ways we would have never foreseen. In particular, the outbreak has had a significant impact on democratic processes all over the world. Elections and votes are no exception to this rule. In some countries, elections have been postponed, votes – even constitutional ones – have been suspended. In others, electoral rules have been dramatically adapted and innovations have taken place to ensure democratic continuity. This first webinar of the Democracies Under Stress series will gather experts from different countries to share their experience and lessons learned of holding elections and voting in time of the Covid-19 crisis.

  • The seminar will start with a global overview of the impacts of Covid-19 on electoral processes presented by Erik Asplund, Programme Officer, International IDEA

His intervention will be followed by the analysis of different case studies by:

  • David Altman, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile will focus on the constitutional process in Chile
  • Edalina Rodgrigues Sanches, Assistant Professor, ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon (Portugal)  will provide a comparative analysis of the situation in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Joe Mathews, California editor for Zócalo Public Square, Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs will reflect on the last US Presidential election and votes at the local level
  • Simon Ootjes, University of Leiden will analyse the impact of the Covid-19 on the General Elections in the Netherlands

Presentations will be followed by a debate with the audience.

Summer School on democratic resilience to cascading disasters

Dr Clara Egger, in partnership with Dr Francesca Giardini, were granted seed money to develop a new summer school on the dynamics of resilience to cascading disasters. 

Combining advanced theoretical knowledge with practical methodological skills, this summer school will address the determinants of resilience to cascading disasters in an interdisciplinary manner by focusing on organizational settings and institutional arrangements. Participants will be equipped with knowledge and skills allowing them to analyze the political environment of cascading disasters, criticalities in existing organizations, build risk awareness in communities, strengthen disaster management institutions and build more resilient societies. The intensive one-week programme will combine lectures, panel discussions and group work with the aim to offer inter- and trans-disciplinary perspectives on risk awareness and preparedness.

Researchers from the EXCEPTIUS project will particular contribute expertise to the following issues:

  1. What are the analytical tools and frameworks allowing to analyse the dimensions of democratic governance?
  2. How can crisis decision-making be designed in a way that maximizes the containment of the cascade effects of a crisis and minimizes the harms of democratic legitimacy, public trust, and social cohesion?
  3. Which methodological tools can we use to assess the resilience of democracies before, during and after crises?

For more information and to apply

Hard times in France in managing the pandemic

by Raul Magni Berton

This text addresses the comments developed in French media, 23.02.2021 on RFI (radio) , 28.01.2021 in Reporterre (newspaper) , and 14.10.2021 in Slate (online magazine)

In Western Europe, France is the country where the restrictions of individual rights and their implementation are rather severe. Unlike in other countries, such as Germany or the Netherlands, the policies against the Covid19 in France were more restrictive during the first wave than during the second one. Thus, the French feel less constrained in February 2021 than in April 2020, while the Dutch feel more constrained. However, the objective level of constraints in February 2021 is still higher in France than in the Netherlands. Overall, compared to its European neighbors France is characterized by a high level of centralization and authoritarianism, with more or less flexible restrictions and extremely drastic and unpredictable decisions compared to its German, Dutch or Danish neighbors. 

Is this due to the state of emergency? For example, in Poland, the state of emergency was not declared, but the measures are still very strict. In Denmark, the state of emergency was declared, but individual rights are more protected. In some cases, a solid legal framework for the state of emergency can help to protect individual rights. This is not the case in France. 

Is this due to the centralization? Until now, considering the amount of deaths and contagions, there is no clear comparative advantage between centralized and decentralized management of the pandemic. Decentralized countries allow for management that is more adapted to local circumstances, but a centralized country favors coordination between the different territories. During the first wave, decentralized countries fared better. In 2021 this advantage is less obvious. In centralized countries, when there are a lot of deaths, when management is difficult, there are regular protests calling to decentralize. Conversely, in decentralized countries, when these difficult situations are faced, there are protests to centralize. However, what is clear is that decentralized countries have provided more checks and balances to reduce the risk of over-restriction of individual liberties. 

Is it important to have checks and balances? Definitely yes, and not only at territorial level. The French majority electoral system contrasts with the need for cohesion among its European partners. In Germany, Belgium or Sweden, there are proportional electoral systems, thus no party can govern alone, and the governing coalition represents 51 percent of the population. One is forced to take into account other views and choose consensual decisions, even during the storm. In France, there is an extreme and unique disproportion in history: about 14 percent of registered voters voted for the current coalition in government, which has about 60 percent of the seats. The central issue in this crisis is that people should behave in a coordinated way and trust the government in a reasonable way. If the government represents only a small part of the population, a vicious circle develops: when people don’t trust the measures taken, they don’t follow them; then the next political measures will be more restrictive, then people will again reduce their confidence in the government. 

The paper on the project out in Frontiers in Political science

The first version of the paper, co-written by Clara Egger, Raul Magni Berton, Sebastian Roche, and Kees Aarts is out in open access on the website of Frontiers in Political Science. It is titled “I do it my way. Understanding policy variation in pandemic response across Europe”. Read the abstract below or visit the website:

To contain the spread of the Covid-19, governments have designed and implemented a large range of exceptional measures. Yet, the restrictive nature of the policy options chosen and the severity of their enforcement mechanisms considerably vary across countries. Focusing on the case of the European Union – a group of closely connected nations which develop some forms of supranational policy coordination to manage the pandemic -, we first map the diversity of policy responses taken using two original indicators : the stringency and scope of freedom limitations and the depth of control used in their enforcement. Second, we elaborate three theoretical scenarios to explain cross-national variation in pandemic policy-making. Our exploratory results – based on bivariate statistical associations – reveal that structural determinants (the level of political and interpersonal trust, a country’s overall resources, democratic experience and, to a lesser extent, political check and balances) shape crisis policy-making more than crisis-related factors such as the magnitude of the crisis at stake. These results call for further research into the determinants of crisis policy-making that we propose to address with a new research project focusing on the modalities, determinants and impacts of exceptional decision making in times of Covid-19.

The final formatted version of the paper will be published soon. For any questions, do not hesitate to contact us!