Constitutional INSIGHT #9 – “The Role of the Legislative Opposition in Emergencies”

What is the role of the opposition in a legislature, and how does it change in the context of an emergency? The COVID-19 pandemic affected the operation of legislatures in many ways, as legislative activities were suspended, expedited or modified, for example by taking place virtually. In addition to these constraints on legislatures, opposition members of parliament were faced with a dilemma: how to be sensitive to the need to avoid appearing overly critical or obstructive of government actions to address the pandemic while also ensuring accountability for the exercise of sometimes extraordinary governmental power.

This Constitutional INSIGHTS examines how countries in the Asia-Pacific region managed these challenges and possible mechanisms to ensure that members of the opposition in the legislature can be involved in the management and oversight of government in emergency contexts. It draws insights from discussions at the fifth Melbourne Forum on Constitution Building in Asia and the Pacific, on the theme of Representation in Democracies during Emergencies, focusing on experiences in Singapore, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Korea and Malaysia.