Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Universidad de los Andes
Political systems shape both the capacity and the motivations of political leaders in dealing with emergencies. In this paper, we investigate global responses to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic to identify systematic differences in different regime types, ranging from democratic to autocratic. In particular, we examine in depth how countries in the MENA region have responded to the pandemic, and compare these responses to global trends. We divide the policy responses into two broad categories: policies for closure and policies for economic support. We then investigate the relative use of these different tools in different countries during the spring of 2020. Taking account of the severity of the outbreak, economic capacity, and capacity of the health systems, we find that the most democratic countries were less likely to implement the most restrictive closure policies, and more likely to adopt high levels of economic support, compared to the most autocratic countries. Globally, the data shows the following main trends:
Countries with more democratic institutions were more likely to adopt high levels of economic support.
Countries with more democratic institutions were slightly less likely to adopt the most restrictive closure policies.
Countries with more democratic institutions have stronger healthcare capacity to deal with the pandemic.
Countries with more democratic institutions have more transparent reporting of key statistics, such as the number of conducted tests.