January 2021

Legislative leadership in the time of COVID-19

Rebecca Gordon, Nic Cheeseman


Legislatures are central to modern democratic politics, holding governments to account, and scrutinising legislation in order to generate more effective public policy. Yet during moments of crisis, legislatures are often bypassed as presidents and prime ministers prioritise a rapid response. The concern that legislatures will be marginalised, with greater power concentrated in the hands of the executive, has been particularly significant during COVID-19, when eighty countries have witnessed democratic backsliding.

To assess the extent to which legislators have been able to exert leadership during COVID-19 and the impact that legislative oversight has had on government responses, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Developmental Leadership Program and the International Development Department at the University of Birmingham developed the “Legislative Responses to COVID-19 Tracker”.

The Tracker monitors whether the legislature sat; whether there was legislative oversight of the initial response from 1 March to 1 May 2020; and whether legislatures had ongoing oversight from 1 April to 1 September 2020.

The resulting report, “Legislative leadership in the time of COVID-19,” sets out the findings of the research, and outlines recommendations for how countries can ensure effective accountability and oversight in times of crisis.

The dataset and report can also be found on Westminster Foundation for Democracy's website.


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Legislative leadership in the time of COVID-19

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