Department of Economics and Business Economics

Why Do Governments Call a State of Emergency? On the Determinants of Using Emergency Constitutions

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States of emergency do not only imply a significant change in the balance of powers between the three branches of government, they are also very frequently declared: between 1985 and 2014, at least 137 countries were subject to at least one such event. This contribution is the first to systematically inquire into the factors determining such declarations. We find that constitutions matter and that descriptive statistics indicate that countries without constitutionalized emergency provisions declare states of emergency significantly more often than countries with such provisions. Further analysis shows that it is crucial to distinguish between states of emergency declared as a consequence of a natural disaster from those declared as a consequence of political turmoil. Distinguishing between the costs of declaring an emergency and its benefits, we find that the less costly it is to declare an emergency, the more emergencies will be called on the grounds of natural disasters but not on the grounds of political turmoil. This is, hence, more evidence that constitutions matter. Finally, emergencies based on political turmoil are more likely to be declared if an economic crisis is hitting the country, large natural disasters are more likely to lead to an SOE when more powers are allocated to the legislature, and results suggest that even military coup governments are subject to constitutional constraints.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Economy
Pages (from-to)110-123
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • BALANCES, CHECKS, Emergency constitutions, HUMAN-RIGHTS, Natural disasters, Power-maximizing politicians, State of emergency

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