An Institutional Approach to the Detection Problem in Democratic Backsliding

It seems to be taken almost for granted that one of the normatively problematic characteristics of the current wave of democratic backsliding is that it is impossible to detect. As such authors have referred to the process of backsliding as “autocratic legalism” or “stealth authoritarianism”. This is a process, which is objectively difficult to detect, and the resulting constitution would not appear to differ from a liberal democratic constitution to an outside observer. This paper will seek to tackle this ‘detection problem’ by recasting it as a problem of institutional competence. It then goes on to consider the strengths and weaknesses of three types of institutions – state, political parties and civil society – to tackle different types of threats to democracy, arguing that each has its advantages and disadvantages when responding to threats to democracy.