Sri Lanka: Pandemic-catalyzed democratic backsliding

Bhavani Fonseka, Luwie Ganeshathasan, Asanga Welikala

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This chapter investigates Sri Lanka’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 has posed for Sri Lanka not only a public health challenge and an economic challenge but also, perhaps most seriously, a crisis of constitutional democracy. Although questions have been raised about the accuracy of government statistics, the scale of testing and contact tracing, and failures in providing protective equipment to front-line workers including military personnel, there is broad public approval of the government’s crisis response. However, much more alarming are the clear signs in the government’s response that the public health emergency has provided the impetus for an aggressive executive takeover of the state, steepening the curve of de-democratization. The chapter then describes the aspects of the governmental crisis response that are the cause of worry, and offers an analysis based on a framework drawn from comparative politics and comparative constitutional law as to the agentic, institutional, and causal dimensions of the democratic backslide underway in Sri Lanka. While the pandemic has undoubtedly boosted the process of executive aggrandizement that had already commenced, this catalysis may in fact also shorten the authoritarian cycle, because the accelerated de-democratization is likely to result in executive actions that cross the threshold of public tolerance sooner in what as yet remains a procedural democracy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCovid-19 in Asia
Subtitle of host publicationLaw and Policy Contexts
EditorsVictor V. Ramraj
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9780197553831
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Sri Lanka
  • Covid-19 pandemic
  • constitutional democracy
  • de-democratization
  • democratic backslide
  • executive aggrandizement


Dive into the research topics of 'Sri Lanka: Pandemic-catalyzed democratic backsliding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this