Abstract: Numerous studies on democratic backsliding mostly focus on the state executive as a driving force. In contrast, the analysis presented here highlights the role of vested interests as the main actors behind backsliding processes in hybrid regimes. In a focused case study of anti‐corruption reforms in Ukraine, this contribution analyses the initiation of backsliding by these actors through their influence on nominally independent branches of power as well as the subtle takeover of the legislative repair process that followed. The case study is based on original semi‐structured expert interviews and document analysis. The main argument is that the distinct role played by the state executive also substantially changes the interaction between the actors involved. For the case of Ukraine, the study shows that the leverage of Western organisations in conjunction with the expertise and swift reaction of Ukrainian civil society organisations constitute a necessary precondition for the containment of backsliding attempts.
Keywords: backsliding; civil society; democracy promotion; European Union; hybrid regimes; International Monetary Fund; Ukraine; vested interests; Western donors