Defending Democracy in the West: The Role of International Organizations Against Democratic Backsliding

April 2017

The period of democratic expansion around the world after the end of the Cold War came to a halt in the past decade. Many countries were unable or unwilling to complete their transition from authoritarianism to full democracy and instead remained as hybrid regimes, with some democratic and some autocratic characteristics. This paper focuses on a more recent trend: democratic backsliding. Countries that have gone from democratic to hybrid regimes, mostly due to popular support for illiberal leaders and parties. Specifically, the research focuses on Hungary and the role of the European Union in trying to avoid such backsliding in one of its members. Despite several legal instruments and economic and political leverage, the EU has not stopped or slowed down the authoritarian path followed by Viktor Órban’s government in Hungary, putting one of its founding values in doubt. The paper also looks at the case of Venezuela, and how another regional body, the Organization of American States, has been unable and unwilling to defend democratic principles in that country.