Backsliding: Democratic Regress in the Contemporary World

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Backsliding examines the processes through which elected rulers weaken checks on executive power, curtail civil and political liberties, and undermine the integrity of the electoral system. Drawing on detailed studies of 16 cases of backsliding, including the United States and countries in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa, we focus on three interrelated causal mechanisms: the pernicious effects of polarization; the ruler’s control of the legislature; and the incremental abuses of power that divides oppositions and keeps them off balance. An online appendix provides detailed accounts of the 16 cases, which can be found at

Discussant: Richard Roewer (Oxford)