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What Is Democracy?
- The term democracy is derived from the Greek Demokratia.
- In Greek, the terms ‘demos’ and ‘kratia’ imply ‘people’ and ‘rule,’ respectively. ‘Democracy is governance of the people, by the people, and for the people,’ Abraham Lincoln said.
- This chapter will examine the definition, need, and characteristics of democracy.
Need Of Defining Democracy
Democracies must be defined precisely in order to be understood. It is used for a variety of reasons, and many types of governments refer to themselves as democracies.
We can only grasp the meaning of a term like democracy by examining some instances of its practice. However, we must define it precisely so that we can apply it properly to other comparable circumstances, rather than just accepting what it means to other people.
A Simple Definition Of Democracy
Democracy is a type of governance in which the populace elects the authorities. We can easily distinguish non-democratic regimes based on these criteria.
For example, Myanmar’s army rulers are not elected by the people and therefore are not democratic. Dictators such as Chile’s Augusto Pinochet are not chosen by the people.
This also applies to the Saudi Arabian and Nepalese rulers. If we adopt this description, almost every government is a democracy with elections. However, this would be very deceptive. We must make a clear distinction between a government that is really democratic and one that feigns democracy.
Features Of Democracy
- Rulers who are chosen by the people make all the important decisions.
- Elections give the people a choice and a fair chance to change who is in charge.
- Everyone has the same chance to make this choice and take advantage of this chance.
- If this choice is made, the government will be limited by the Constitution and the rights of the people.
Free And Fair Electoral Competition
The examples of China and Mexico will help us comprehend this aspect of democracy.
Case Of Mexico : Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1930. It conducts presidential elections every six years. Mexico has never been ruled by the military or a tyrant.
Until 2000, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) won every Presidential election, as they used many corrupt tactics and immoral methods to do it.
Case Of China : Members of China’s National People’s Congress are referred to as Quanguo Renmin Daibiao Dahui (National People’s Congress). After every five years, they are chosen by the people. The National People’s Congress has the authority to nominate the country’s President and some members who are chosen by the army.
A candidate must get the permission of the Chinese Communist Party prior to contesting elections. Only its members or members of eight parties linked to it are permitted to compete. Thus, the Communist Party invariably becomes the government.
Conclusion Of Both The Cases : In both China and Mexico, it seems as if elections were not conducted correctly. Elections of any sort are insufficient.
Thus, another characteristic of democracy is that it must be founded on a free and fair election in which those in power have a reasonable possibility of losing.
Major Decisions By Elected Leaders
From 1999 to 2007, General Musharraf’s tenure in Pakistan taught us one critical aspect of democracy.
Case Of Pakistan : In October 1999, General Pervez Musharraf conducted a military coup in Pakistan. He deposed a democratically elected government and assumed the title of. The country’s chief executive. He then changed his title to President.
In 2002, he secured a five-year extension via a vote in the nation. According to Pakistani media and human rights organisations, the referendum was predicated on irregularities and fraud.
Musharraf issued a Legal Framework Order amending the Pakistani Constitution in August 2002. The President may dismiss national or provincial assemblies according to this decree. The civilian Cabinet’s work is overseen by a National Security Council presided over by military commanders.
While elected representatives had some authority, the ultimate authority rested with military commanders and General Musharraf himself. This cannot be described as a popular rule. Thus, the fundamental characteristic of democracy is that ultimate decision-making authority must lie with those chosen by the people.
One Person, One Vote, One Value
The Universal Adult Franchise Principle is widely recognised across the world.
- Women do not have the right to vote in Saudi Arabia.
- Estonia has structured its citizenship laws in such a manner that it makes it difficult for members of the Russian minority to get the Right to Vote.
- In Fiji, the voting system favours indigenous Fijians over Indian-Fijians.
Rule Of Law And Respect For Rights
This characteristic of democracy may be better appreciated via the example of Zimbabwe. In 1980, Zimbabwe gained independence from white minority rule.
Since then, the nation has been governed by the ZANU-PF party. Which spearheaded the fight for independence. Robert Mugabe, the party’s leader, has been the country’s President since independence.
This party has consistently won elections via violence and intimidation directed at opposing politicians, workers, and media. Protests against the President were unlawful, and the administration disregards court rulings that are not in its favour. As a result, there is no rule of law and citizens’ rights are violated.
Recently, Robert Mugabe was deposed after 37 years in power, and Emmerson Mnangagwa was elected President.
The state should uphold people’ fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech, protest, and political activity. Additionally, these rights should be safeguarded by the court, whose decisions should be followed by everyone.
Thus, another characteristic of democracy is that democratic governments operate within the bounds of constitutional law and individual rights.
Debating Merits Of Democracy
Genuine democracy should be contrasted with genuine manifestations of other kinds of governance, such as monarchy, dictatorship, or others. To help you comprehend, the following are the reasons for and against democracy.
Arguments For Democracy
Democracy is superior to all other forms of governance in terms of responding to citizens’ needs. Democracy necessitates that rulers respond to the demands of the populace.
A democratic government is more responsible. Democracy is founded on consultation and debate, which eliminates the potential of making hasty or irresponsible choices. Thus, democracy contributes to an increase in the quality of decision-making.
Democracy offers a mechanism for resolving disagreements and disputes. Only in a democracy are diverse groups capable of coexisting peacefully. In a varied nation like India, where people of many religions and languages coexist, democracy serves as the glue that holds our country together.
Democracy improves people’ dignity. Because democracy is founded on the concept of political equality, the poorest and least educated citizens have the same standing as the wealthy and educated. Democracy enables us to rectify our own errors.
Arguments Against Democracy
In a democracy, leaders always change. This results in instabilities. Democracy is fundamentally a game of political rivalry and power struggle. There is no room for morality in this situation.
In a democracy, many individuals must be consulted, resulting in delays.
Elected officials are not always aware of the public’s best interests, which results in poor choices.
Because democracy is founded on election rivalry, it breeds corruption.
Ordinary folks have no idea what is healthy for them; they should abstain from making any decisions. Democracy needs regular leadership transitions. Occasionally, this may result in the reversal of major decisions and a reduction in the government’s efficiency.
Democracy is not a panacea for all ills. It has not eradicated poverty in our nation or anywhere in the globe. It guarantees that individuals have the ability to make their own choices. However, this does not ensure that their choices will be sound. Individuals are capable of making errors.
Broader Meanings Of Democracy
Representative democracy is the most prevalent type of democracy. The majority of people govern under this system through their elected representatives.
- Modern democracies are so populous that it is physically difficult for them to convene and make collective choices.
- Even if they could, the average person lacks the time, motivation, and skills necessary to participate in all choices.
A democratic choice requires consultation with and agreement from all those who may be impacted by it. Both powerful and non-powerful individuals should have an equal voice in decision-making.
This may be a government, a family, or any other kind of organisation. Thus, democracy is a concept that may be applied to every aspect of life and can manifest itself in a variety of ways.
Every person must be allowed to participate equally in decision-making in a democracy. Equal voting rights alone will not suffice. Each citizen needs equal access to knowledge, a fundamental education, equal resources, and a high level of dedication.
If these principles are taken seriously, no nation on Earth is a perfect democracy. Every democracy must strive to realise democratic decision-making principles.
It cannot be accomplished in a single lifetime. It will need an ongoing effort to preserve and enhance democratic decision-making processes.
NCERT questions & answers from Chemical Reactions and Equations
Here is some information about four countries. Based on this information, how would you classify each of these countries.
Write ‘democratic’ ‘Undemocratic’ or ‘not sure’ against each of these.
(a) Country A: People who do not accept the country’s official religion, do not have a right to vote.
(b) Country B: The same party has been winning elections for the last twenty years.
Answer: Not sure.
(c) Country C: Ruling party has lost in the last three elections.
(d) Country D: There is no independent Election Commission.
Here is some information about four countries. Based on this information, how would you classify each of these countries? Write ‘democratic’, ‘undemocratic’ or ‘not sure’ against each of these.
(a) Country P: The Parliament cannot pass a law about the army without the consent of the Chief of Army.
(b) Country Q: The Parliament cannot pass a law reducing the powers of the judiciary.
(c) Country R: The country’s leaders cannot sign any treaty with another country without taking permission from its neighbouring country.
Answer: Not sure.
(d) Country S: All the major economic decisions about the country are taken by officials of the central bank which the ministers cannot change.
Which of these is not a good argument in favour of democracy? Why?
(a) People feel free and equal in a democracy.
(b) Democracies resolve conflict in a better way than others.
(c) Democratic government is more accountable to the people.
(d) Democracies are more prosperous than others.
Answer: (d) Democracies are more rich than others; yet, this is not a compelling argument in favour of democracy, since it has failed to eradicate poverty in India and other regions of the world, such as Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Other nations, such as Russia and China, are more affluent than several democratic Asian and African countries.
Each of these statements contains a democratic and an undemocratic element. Write out the two separately for each statement.
(a) A minister said that some laws have to be passed by the Parliament in order to conform to the regulations decided by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
(i) Undemocratic: Some laws have to be passed by the Parliament.
(ii) Democratic: In order to conform to the regulations decided by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
(b)The Election Commission ordered re-polling in a constituency where large-scale rigging was reported.
(i) Democratic: The Election Commission ordered that a constituency be re-polled.
(ii) Undemocratic: Rigging on a big scale has been recorded in this area.
(c) Women’s representation in the Parliament has barely reached 10 per cent. This led women’s organisations to demand one-third seats for women.
Answer: (i) Undemocratic: The percentage of women in Parliament has scarcely risen over 10%.
(ii) Democratic: As a result, women’s organisations demanded that one-third of the seats be reserved for women.
Which of these is not a valid reason for arguing that there is a lesser possibility of famine in a democratic country?
(a) Opposition parties can draw attention to hunger and starvation.
(b) Free press can report suffering from famine in different parts of the country.
(c) The Government fears its defeat in the next elections.
(d) People are free to believe in and practise any religion.
Answer: (d) People are free to believe in and practise any religion that has no relation with the lesser possibility of famine in a country.
There are 40 villages in a district where the government has made no provision for drinking water. These villagers met and considered many methods of forcing the government to respond to their needs.
Which of these is not a democratic method?
(a) Filing a case in the courts claiming that water is part of the right to life.
(b) Boycotting the next elections to give a message to all parties.
(c) Organising public meetings against the government’s policies.
(d) Paying money to government officials to get water.
Answer: (d) Paying money to government officials to get water is not a democratic method.
Write a response to the following arguments against democracy:
(a) Army is the most disciplined and corruption-free organisation in the country. Therefore the army should rule the country.
Answer: Allowing the army to run the country results in the army gaining total power. The legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government should all have equal authority. Concentrating all authority in the military will result in dictatorships, such as Chile’s Pinochet administration.
(b) Rule of the majority means the rule of ignorant people. What we need is the rule of the wise, even if they are in small numbers.
Answer: Democracy is a form of government in which all adult citizens have the right to vote. Limiting the ability of the populace to rule and govern to a small group of “intelligent people” would be detrimental to representative democracy.
(c) If we want religious leaders to guide us in spiritual matters, why not invite them to guide us in politics as well. The country should be ruled by religious leaders.
Answer: Politics and religion are distinct concepts. Religion teaches us the difference between right and wrong, which ultimately leads to spirituality. When religion and politics intersect, communalism or community politics emerge, which is extremely dangerous.
Are the following statements in keeping with democracy as a value? Why?
(a) Father to Daughter: I don’t want to hear your opinion about your marriage. In our family children marry where the parents tell them to.
Answer: Undemocratic: Permission was denied for the daughter to express her feelings about her marriage.
(b) Teacher to student: Don’t disturb my concentration by asking me questions in the classroom.
Answer: Undemocratic: In class, the student is not permitted to ask questions.
(c) Employee to the officer: Our working hours must be reduced according to the law.
Answer: Democratic: Because the employee has requested that his or her working hours be decreased in accordance with the law.
Consider the following facts about a country and decide if you would call it a democracy. Give
reasons to support your decision.
(a) All the citizens of the country have the right to vote. Elections are held regularly.
Answer: It is democratic because all adults have the right to vote in a democracy.
(b) The country took a loan from international agencies. One of the conditions for giving a loan was that the government would reduce its expenses on education and health.
Answer: A democratic government works for the country’s welfare and upholds the citizens’ dignity. As a result, it cannot perform any functions that are detrimental to the country’s and people’s welfare. Additionally, it prohibits an international agency from interfering with a country’s internal affairs.
(c) People speak more than seven languages but education is available only in one language, the language spoken by 52 percent of people of the country.
Answer: Because the dominant viewpoint is forced on the minority, it is undemocratic.
(d) Several organisations have given a call for peaceful demonstrations and nationwide strikes in the country to oppose these policies. Government has arrested these leaders.
Answer: Democratic: In a democratic society, the government maintains order by arresting strikers who oppose the government’s policies, as is the case here.
(e) The government owns the radio and television in the country. All the newspapers have to get permission from the government to publish any news about the government’s policies and protests.
Answer: Undemocratic: In a democracy, citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression. The government exercises no control over radio, television, or the news media.