Italy and Spain were the first countries affected by the shift of the pandemic epicentre from east to west. The rapid spread of the virus in allegedly similar social settings, the relatively high numbers of cases and casualties, and the adoption of drastic containment measures were similar in the two countries during the first wave of the pandemic. Both countries are enmeshed in an unstable political equilibrium at the centre, governed by recently established national political coalitions that have continuously been called into question and exposed to significant public debt. The two countries differ in the role of the executive vis-a-vis the legislative, and the tensions between central coordination and regional centrifugal forces. To improve the understanding of how the pandemic has influenced decision-making and crisis management, this article explains the relevance of institutional veto points, as well as differences between the two countries. There is room to match coordination, policy capacity and shared accountability through more collaborative governance. Points for practitioners: Governing a transboundary crisis that involves different governmental levels is about creating an effective coordination mechanism that clarifies responsibilities, avoiding those who may block decision-making processes (veto players) through being incentivized to do so due to the absence of adequate shared accountability systems. National and regional managers should realize that the separation of territorial powers not accompanied by political coordination jeopardizes policy capacity in both the short and long term.
- veto points