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COVID-19 / Political Affairs Committee: hearing on the role of parliaments and the holding of elections in emergency situations

In a crisis situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic – where an executive, facing a number of constraints, has to take immediate action – how can parliaments adjust their role as guarantors of stability and democratic legitimacy? How can continuity of parliamentary oversight be ensured and where the boundaries of delegation of powers from national parliaments to the executive lie during emergency situations? How can elected politicians, in exceptional circumstances, work together in the public interest across political divides? What solutions can be applied to ensure the continuation of parliamentary work? Which criteria should be applied in order to decide whether democratic elections can be organised in times of crisis?

The Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will address these questions at a parliamentary hearing to be held by video-conference on Thursday 28 May, which will examine the role of national parliaments and the holding of elections in emergency situations.

At the hearing, parliamentarians will share their experiences and good practices implemented in their respective countries. They will engage in discussion with the following speakers: Rik Daems, President of PACE; Oliver Kask, Chairperson of the Council of Democratic Elections of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and judge of the Court of Appeal of Estonia; Iain Cameron, member of the Venice Commission and Professor at Uppsala University (Sweden); and Professor Meg Russell, Director of the Constitution Unit in the Department of Political Science at University College London (United Kingdom).

This hearing will serve as a basis for the preparation of a report on “Democracies facing the COVID-19 pandemic” to be adopted at a future meeting of the committee. The rapporteur on this issue is expected to be appointed on the morning of 28 May.

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A recording of the hearing – which will take place by video-conference on Thursday 28 May from 10 a.m. to noon – will be quickly available on the PACE website.