Modern federalism in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Author: Alexander Cherkasov

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2022-4-110-128

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; public health crisis; federalism; intergovernmental relations; coordination mechanisms; political parties; municipalities; restrictive measures


The experience of countering the COVID-19 pandemic in modern federations has revealed both the advantages and disadvantages of this form of state territorial structure in the fight against this public health threat. Complicated mechanisms of division of power between a federation and its subjects sometimes made it difficult to respond immediately to an emergency situation, leading to longer periods for coordinating planned actions. At the same time, in federal states it was possible to apply more flexible and differentiated approaches to individual territories and to use existing mechanisms of coordinating and harmonizing the actions of public authorities at various levels. There is a general consensus that federalism, on the whole, stood the test of the pandemic, although certain shortcomings in current institutional frameworks were exposed. The form of state territorial arrangement itself has hardly been the primary factor in determining the success or failure of a particular country in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Among federations there were both states that successfully coped with the pandemic (Australia) and ones that experienced tangible problems in the fight against it (the United States). More significant were various geographic, demographic, historical, economic and cultural factors that determined the final results of countering COVID-19 in a particular state. In the context of the fight against the pandemic and the crisis caused by it, there was a natural strengthening of the role of federal institutions due to some weakening of the separation of powers both vertically and horizontally. The lessons of the pandemic have confirmed the important role of political parties and the party system, which may serve as both a unifying and a disintegrating factor. This was most clearly confirmed by the example of the United States, where the fight against COVID-19 took place against the backdrop of an acute electoral struggle between the Republican and Democratic parties. The experience of combating the spread of COVID-19 has also shown that those countries which coped with the pandemic more successfully had a governmental body at the federal level which made the most important decisions and coordinated the efforts of public bodies of different levels. This helped to combine coordination at the federal level with differentiation at the regional level.

About the author: Alexander Cherkasov – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Chief Research Fellow, Human Rights Department, Institute of State and Law, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Cherkasov A. (2022) Sovremennyy federalism v usloviyakh pandemii COVID-19 [Modern federalism in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 110–128. (In Russian).


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