Illiberal democracies or competitive authoritarian regimes could apply some democracy procedures to sound internationally legitimate. However they take measures that affect this legitimacy later as they undermine the autonomy of the institutions of democracy as the legislature and the judiciary or when they restrict the freedoms and censor the media.
Illiberal democracies could be argued to be on the path constitutional liberty when we reconsider the steps needed for democratization, the advocator of that democratization process and the evaluation of this process.
The approach to democratization needs consideration so that it can balance between the procedural steps (elections, existence of institutions and competitive media) and the substantive steps (as the role of the judicial system in regulating the elections and dealing with violations, the strength of the institutions and that they can stand up to the president, that the media is objective in its coverage and that the opposition is being represented in the media). These steps are required to avoid the relapse of the country to authoritarian forms of government or stagnation of a competitive authoritarian system.
So for the advocator of this democratization process we need to analyze if this process called upon internally or externally. For that problem of democratization as a process is that for most of the developing countries or the third wave countries who relapsed to any hybrid form of democracy or autocracy is that it is a process of foreign intervention. It’s a goal that has been imposed on the country in order to receive more aid or to ensure national security, hence leaders could justify violating democracy to the people as means to stand up to the foreign intervention. This aspect of democracy being defined by the west and imposed by the west could explain the popularity of the different authoritarian regimes for that they might incorporate national elements as religion or ethnicity or their authoritarian ruling. Hence in these cases it is easier to organize people to vote based on their religious, or tribal, or ethnic preferences bringing competition elements to the autocratic system.
For the evaluation of the country’s path for democracy instead of depending on only the procedural aspects as they are more measurable we need to depend on the substantive aspects even if based on qualitative measures. For example, instead of depending on the number of parties competing in the elections as a determinant of competitiveness we need to evaluate the aspects of the campaigns: whether the public was provided with enough information to guide their choice, whether all parties were given the same chance of publicity and so on.