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What is democracy? What is democracy?
by Amin George Forji
2006-10-13 12:56:32
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Abraham Lincoln's idea of government of the people, by the people, and for the people is generally considered to sum up the essence of modern democracy. The term 'democracy' itself is a pervasive concept. It is said to denote a form of government where political power rests with the people. That is, the citizenry directly or indirectly make all the state's decisions through a free and fair electoral process.

This requirement of a free and fair election is often considered to be the minimum condition to qualify a government as a democratic one. Etymologically, the term has its origin from two Greek words: "Demos" which means 'people', and "kratos" meaning 'power or rule' - the term simply means the 'Rule of the People'.

Freedom is another term that invariably forms the core or nucleus of a democracy. One way of looking at democracy is that it is a set of principles and ideas about freedom or, simply put, the institutionalization of freedom. In other words, democratic governments must be characterized by the respect of human rights.

Since the populace is so paramount for there to be a democracy, it is imperative to examine universal principles of the concept.

Universal Principles of Democracy

1) Pluralist societies

To talk of democracy in a monolithic society would be an absolute contradiction of terms. In fact, for there to be a democracy, there must be a pluralist society, wherein there are many organizations and power centers. This is mainly because history has shown that diversity is the best protection against the governmental and social ills of mystification, tyranny and corruption.

2) Checks and balances

Almost every constitution in the world today has provisions for the separation of powers. However, the application of the norm varies seriously as we move from one country to another, depending on whether the government in place is more pro-democracy or more pro-dictatorship. The concept of separation of powers simply means that the various organs of power - that is, the executive, legislative, and judiciary - are kept separate and very distinct from each other, in a bid to guarantee more mutual restrain and control. The reasoning here is that the concentration of powers is dangerous and susceptible to abuse, for as Aristotle put it, "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

3) Free and Fair Elections

Again, this criterion is generally considered to be the barest minimum for a government to be classed as a democracy. Other means of accession to power such as a coup d'etat and hereditary rights are becoming very, very unfashionable, with elections now conceived as the best available means to periodically control the rulers. It is not just enough to hold elections, because even dictatorial regimes are increasingly doing so. For elections to be qualified as such, we definitely need a good, independent and functional electoral system in place.

4) The Declaration of Rights and the Guarantee of Freedoms

The U.S. Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jeffereson in July 1787, has been considered to be the creed of true democracy. In his famous paragraph, he said, "We hold this truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights..." The people being the hallmark behind every democracy, in fact have the right and even the obligation to overthrow any government or regime that violates these inalienable rights. It is enough to just state the rights and duties in national instruments. Ways and means have to be foreseen for their guarantee.

5) Democratic culture

For the masses to fully participate in politics, favorable conditions are paramount. When this is the case, they do not see politics as being reserved for others, Instead they bear in mind that their destiny falls within politics and that the leaders are there on their behalf. The importance of this norm is that leaders in a democracy must not be seen as abstract and foreign. The leaders have to act in good faith, believing in legitimacy. To do this, democracy has to structured as a government of "alterance and alterations", with ins and outs fighting to serve the people and not the leaders.


 
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Sand2006-10-12 18:23:59
It was not Aristotle but Lord Acton who noted that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

A democracy cannot function properly without an educated and well informed populace and with guarantees that their representatives are responsive to the nations needs and not to powerful special interests which control the financial end of things. The lack of these factors is the basis of what has destroyed and is destroying the potential for functioning democracy in many so-called democratic countries.
n



Ergotelina2006-10-12 19:08:02
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

Lord Acton


Aristotle //////////////////////////

Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.


Asa2006-10-13 11:59:37
I have the power

Snap


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