Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Interest Group Strategic Responses to Democratic Backsliding

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Abstract:  In this article, we offer insights into the plurality of interest groups’ strategic responses to the socially, politically, and economically transformative phenomenon of democratic backsliding. For the purpose of the article, the term “ideational plurality” has been coined to refer to a plurality of interest groups’ ideas leading their activities in general and their choice of strategies concerning the government in particular (attitudinal and behavioural aspects). Two policy fields and two types of interest groups engaged in an institutionalised social partnership—advocacy NGOs (operating in the environmental policy field) and economic groups (trade unions)—are studied comparatively in Slovenia using a mixed‐methods approach. The key findings are that strategic responses to democratic backsliding vary between environmental NGOs and trade unions, as do their ideational plurality, and that environmental NGOs’ ideational plurality damages their potential to struggle against democratic backsliding. In contrast, trade unions’ ideational homogeneity enables them to jointly struggle against governmental destruction of one significant segment of democratic order (institutions of social partnership) without demanding that the government step down for misusing the Covid‐19 pandemic to establish a system of governance that resonates with Viktor Orbán’s ideas of illiberal democracy.

Keywords:  Covid‐19; democratic backsliding; environment; interest group strategies; NGOs; Slovenia; social partnership; trade unions



© Danica Fink-Hafner, Sara Bauman. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.