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Cassani, Andrea. “COVID-19 and the Democracy–Autocracy Freedom Divide: Reflections on Post-Pandemic Regime Change Scenarios.” Political Studies Review, September 2021.


This research note contributes to the emerging debate on the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for democracy, autocracy and regime change. Following a review of the literature on the short-term impact of the pandemic on citizen freedoms, I conduct a preliminary test showing that COVID-19 has widened the freedom divide between democracy and autocracy. I propose a prudential interpretation of this new finding and of its implications for medium- to long-term regime change dynamics. In an age of advancing autocratization, regaining awareness that democracies and autocracies treat citizens differently could help marginalize antisystem political forces in democratic countries. However, increased levels of repression in regimes that are already authoritarian are no good news in terms of prospective democratization. Moreover, the management of the social and economic consequences of the pandemic is likely to represent a key driver of future regime change, duo to its impact on the legitimacy and stability of both democracies and autocracies.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.