The euphoria of democratically electing a new government to replace an authoritarian or military regime needs to be followed by a period of consolidation, cementing the integrity of the new democracy and preventing it from sliding back into authoritarianism. There are two kinds of authoritarian backsliding that pose a risk to new democracies.  First, the recently deposed authoritarian regime can return, perhaps in disguise.  Second, the security sector could be been manipulated for political gain by recently elected civilian governments in new democracies.  In the fragile early days of a new democracy, these two versions of authoritarian backsliding pose distinct but equally grave challenges to the consolidation of democracy.

The success of a transition from authoritarianism to democracy depends on whether the security sector can be effectively reformed to narrow as much as possible these two pathways to authoritarian backsliding. Meeting these challenges involve simultaneously extracting the security sector out of politics and establishing effective civilian government capable of exercising oversight over the security sector, and ensuring that the newly elected civilian government is not able to manipulate or abuse the security sector for partisan political gain. Constitutional and institutional design is one tool available to the architects of new democracies to minimize the possibility of authoritarian backsliding as a result of a failure to meet these challenges.


The West Asia and North Africa Office of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA); International Development Research Centre (IDRC); The Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC).

Project Leads and Project Experts

Project Leads: Zaid Al-Ali (International IDEA), Sujit Choudhry (Constitutional Transitions) & Richard Stacey (Toronto).

16 project experts from 11 countries.


Policy Manual and 11 case-studies, published in English and Arabic.

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