COVID-19: In times of crisis, parliamentary democracy cannot be put 'on hold'

“Democracy and parliamentary scrutiny of governments, even if exercised through new means, must be protected during the COVID-19 pandemic,” warns Dame Cheryl Gillan (United Kingdom, EC/DA), Chairperson of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

“This is to ensure transparency and public debate and to preserve citizens’ trust in democratic institutions, which are essential in a crisis situation,” she added.

“Parliamentary scrutiny and democratic accountability become even more important in times of crisis as the executive has to enact, under time constraints, immediate measures which can have a huge impact on people’s lives and freedoms. This requires the continuation of governance, even under the conditions of a state of emergency, but always under the democratic control of parliament and of the courts, and in strict compliance with the requirements of the European Convention of Human Rights” she said.

“Parliaments, operating if necessary as a virtual chamber or with social distancing and rotated attendance, must therefore continue to fully play their role as guardians of the fundamental rights of citizens, based on human dignity, and to reflect the plurality of society. Parliaments must also protect citizens' access to information and freedom of speech.”

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge to all of us. We, our people's representatives, must also rise to the challenge of these extraordinary circumstances and put the general interest, as well as the security and safety of the population, above and beyond any political games or tactics. At the same time, we must advocate for more solidarity and mutual help among our nations in order to preserve the democratic integrity of our continent and beyond,” she concluded.