Recap of the IPSA World Congress - Day 3 (12 July)
Publication date: Mon, 12 Jul 2021
IPSA President’s Plenary Session: The Impact of COVID-19 on Democracy
At each Congress, the outgoing IPSA President organizes a Plenary session to gather prominent scholars worldwide. This tradition continued with IPSA President Marianne Kneuer. The Plenary aimed to shed light on the impact of COVID-19 on democracies in different regions of the world. For this purpose, the participants, Sheri Berman (USA), Maria Herminia Tavares de Almeida (Brazil), Ivan Krastev (Bulgaria), Annie Chikwanha (South Africa), and Julio Teehankee (Philippines), addressed the topic from their regional perspective allowing a comparative panorama. The session began with the introductory speech of Prof. Dr. Kneuer, who drew a general picture of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on democracy. She then presented each speaker to the audience.
In her speech, Prof. Berman focuses on the Trump Administration’s chaotic response to the COVID-19 that deepened the existing divide among US citizens. As she indicated, the US President and right-wing media portrayed the pandemic as a hoax and as another attempt to destabilize his administration. Republican Party supporters also took the pandemic less seriously and widely ignored the recommendations of the scientific community. Prof. Berman emphasized that the pandemic accelerated the decay of American democracy, and Trump used the pandemic to erode democratic rights.
Then, Prof. Chikwanha drew a general picture of Africa in the face of the pandemic and detailed the main challenges that were intensified in the continent with the arrival of the pandemic, including the lack of health care accessibility and infrastructure. She also stressed that the state capacity, which is deficient in many countries in Africa, is an essential factor in responding to the crisis. Prof. Chikwanha also highlighted harsh military measures taken by certain regimes in Africa and mentioned that hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested for violating regulations to suppress the spread of the virus. Additionally, the African leaders used the pandemic as a pretext to limit civil and political liberties. Finally, Prof. Chikwanha pointed out China’s increasing influence on the continent by using the Sinovac vaccine.
The next speaker, Prof. Krastev, summarized how the pandemic has affected Europe’s citizens and their views on the continent’s politics and society. Similar to the other speakers, he confirmed that the existing divide in Europe was worsened due to COVID-19. Prof. Krastev also stressed that citizens lost trust in their government and institutions. He also talked about the paradox of the nationalist parties in Europe who had to reposition themselves. While they were attacking democracy before the pandemic, they now became the defenders of freedom. According to him, these parties have realized that economic nationalism doesn’t work and, as in the case of Italy, have even started supporting the government in its fight against the pandemic.
Prof. Tavares de Almeida focused on the main issues that Latin American countries face. These structural issues predate the pandemic, including poverty and inequalities, slow growth and tight fiscal constraints, the wave of widespread protests in the 2010s and troubled democracies. Caused by institutional instability, citizens’ distrust in political institutions and the rise of populist leaders were also among the challenges that Prof. Tavares de Almeida highlighted. Finally, she pointed out that the pandemic has deepened the structural threats to democracy, but it’s not clear if populist presidents benefited from it, as they constantly confronted parliaments, courts, and political opposition, which increased dissent and polarization in Latin America.
Finally, Prof. Teehankee explored the situation in Southeast Asia by indicating that while the pandemic contributed to the decaying of democracy in the region, this problem predated the pandemic. Prof. Teehankee analyzed the health of Southeast Asian democracy and focused on the four leaders of the region in terms of their responses to the pandemic. The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, adopted a militarized approach and passed anti-terror laws. The Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also declared strict emergency laws and unleashed a social media crackdown. Myanmar’s junta chief, Min Aung Hlaing, arrested political leaders, and the military launched a deadly crackdown on protesters. Finally, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin declared a state of emergency, suspended the parliament and postponed elections.
The Council elected IPSA’s new President and President-elect
The IPSA Council, the highest decision-making body of the Association, has elected Prof. Dianne Pinderhughes (United States) as the new President of IPSA, succeeding Prof. Dr. Marianne Kneuer. Prof. Pinderhughes will serve a two-year term from 2021 to 2023.
The IPSA Council has also elected Prof. Pablo Oñate (Spain) as the President-elect. Prof. Oñate will serve two years as President-elect and will become President at the 2023 IPSA World Congress in Buenos Aires.
On behalf of IPSA and the global Political Science community, we congratulate Prof. Pinderhughes and Prof. Oñate on their new positions.
Read more information here.
Award Session: Meisel-Laponce Award Ceremony
The Meisel-Laponce Award Ceremony was chaired by the International Political Science Review (IPSR) Editors Theresa Reidy and Daniel Stockemer. Prof. Reidy presented Kim Strandberg, Staffan Himmelroos and Kimmo Grönlund, the 2020 recipients of the Meisel-Laponce Award created by the IPSR to honour the first two editors of the journal, John Meisel and Jean Laponce. The prize is awarded at every second World Congress to the best article published in IPSR in the previous four years.
Prof. Strandberg presented the 2020 award-winning article titled “Battling Polarization with Deliberation? - An Experimental Study of Opinion Extremism in Discussions among Like-minded Citizens.” He explained how people could easily connect with other people who share the same ideas and interests in today's society. The problem is that political reasoning in such like-minded groups easily becomes lopsided, hence forming a polarization of opinions. In the last years, we have seen numerous instances of the inherent danger with polarization. Finding ways to stop polarization are arguably more important than ever before. He also demonstrated how he and his colleagues designed a study in 2014 to test whether introducing deliberative norms in like-minded discussions can alleviate group polarization. They found that free discussion without rules led to group polarization in like-minded groups, whereas polarization could be avoided in groups with deliberative norms.
Sponsored Presentation: IPSR - Meet the Editors
IPSA World Congress’ new sponsored session, “Meet the Editors”, allows editors to engage in conversation with the participants, followed by a Q&A session.
The International Political Science Review (IPSR) Co-Editors Theresa Reidy and Daniel Stockemer, and Rosie Cann from SAGE Publications met the Congress delegates and answered their questions.
The session started with the presentation of Prof. Stockemer, who gave an overview of the journal that entered its 42nd year of publication. Submissions to the IPSR journal have increased sharply in recent years. The Thomson-Reuters journal impact factor (JIF) has also improved. Finally, downloads of articles have doubled in the last few years.
After this short presentation, a lively Q&A session started. Participants asked various questions, including the submission and review process and publication timeline.