Democratic backsliding can be defined as the decline or deterioration in the democratic characteristics of a state.

It occurs when a democratic state starts showing signs of becoming autocratic. 

Democratic backsliding refers to the process by which a country that was previously democratic becomes less democratic over time.

It is usually the result of the large-scale weakening of the political institutions that sustained democracy, such as the electoral system, independence of the judiciary and press freedom.

Manifestations of Democratic backsliding

1. Suppression of individual rights: Protection of individual rights is necessary for a healthy democracy.

However, when individual rights are suppressed, the rights and freedoms of citizens are restricted.

Citizens will have limited freedom of speech rights and limited rights to protest.

This will result in a decline in democratic values, and practices.

2. Reduced respect for rule of law: Democratic backsliding can also manifest in the form of reduced respect for rule of law. 

The government or other powerful actors in society can disregard the rule of law by failing to comply with the requirements of the constitution or by selectively applying the laws.

Reduced respect for rule of law contributes to democratic backsliding because it might cause citizens to lose trust in democratic institutions and the government.

3. Reduced influence of the judiciary: The judiciary plays an important role in democracy because it serves as a check on the power of other branches of the government.

It ensures that the activities of the legislature and the executive are in line with the provision of the constitution.

The judiciary also protects the rights of citizens and also settles disputes between warring factions.

If the influence of the judiciary is diminished, it can negatively democracy because there will be an abuse of power by other arms of government, thereby eliminating the democratic values of the state.

4. Suppression of free and fair elections: Free and fair election is one of the most essential features of democracy because it is through the election that democratic leaders acquire and renewed their mandates to rule the people.

Manipulating elections have the potential to undermine the legitimacy of the democratic process and erode public confidence in the democratic system.


It is important to note that democratic backsliding is a process that can occur gradually over time.

It may be difficult to identify the precise moment at which a country transitions from being a democracy to being something less.

However, the presence of certain indicators, such as the suppression of free and fair elections, the suppression of dissent, or the concentration of power in the hands of a few individuals or groups, can be seen as warning signs of potential democratic backsliding.

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