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Essentials of Democracy – A View

Updated: Feb 25

There are various facets behind the origin of society and state as a social institution – jurists’ views vary from the social contract theory to the divine theory. In modern times the governments throughout the world are categorised based on its policy implementation, power concentration and the ideology/principles it follows while framing laws. Out of all the forms of government, there is one thing to note that democracy exists in various types. There is not a single format for a democratic government to functions. However, there is one single characteristic, which is common in all the different types i.e., the people have the right to choose the government leaders through elections and it is the duty of those chosen leaders to implement the constitution of the country efficiently to provide justice & liberty while sustaining peace & development, whether economic, social or political.

In a democracy, the individual will is government and limited by the social will which is the State, which is governed by and for democracy. – Mahatma Gandhi

Democracy draws its meaning from Greek (Demos + Kratos) i.e., rule/power of the people within a country. However, this is restrained by reasonable restrictions on such power or rule – firstly, one person’s exercise of such power must not result in the violation of rights of the other and secondly, every person must within the parameters as to protect the sanctity of the law of the nation. For instance, you can peacefully protest against a policy by the government (chosen by you), which is violating your rights guaranteed under the provisions of the constitution but you cannot protest against the functioning of the legislature (e.g., to demolish the parliament).

If every individual takes the law into his own hands, there is no State. it becomes anarchy, i.e., absence of social law or State, that way lies the destruction of liberty. Therefore, you should subdue your anger and let the State secure justice. – Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s briefly understand the basic pillars of a democratic government - Democracy includes four main principles: it is a democratic framework for the establishment and succession of governments by free and fair elections; it requires the active involvement of people in political affairs; it involves the defence of the human rights of all people; it is a rule of law in which the rules and processes extend fairly to all citizens. The first concept of democracy as a political mechanism for electing and changing governments by free and fair elections sees democracy as a way for voters to select their representatives and keep them responsible for their acts and policies. In this respect, voters decide who will serve them by free and equal elections. Participation in public life is the second main function of people in a democracy. People have a duty to be educated of policy concerns and to analyse how elected officials and members exercise their authority. In addition, they may share their views and desires by voting; the democratic obligation of the person. Voting is an important method by which citizens participate in the choice of their leaders, and because all citizens are affected by this choice, it is the equality of citizens with the Agency. This principle indicates that every citizen must be regarded as formally equal to every other citizen by virtue of the influence that their agency may have on public decision-making. Participation often includes fundraising, competing for a political office, addressing public issues and holding forums. It is also clear that political parties are essential to democracy. Thirdly, in a democracy, all people have such constitutional rights which cannot be violated or withheld by governments. People have the right to have faith, religion and culture of their own. For instance, people can select the sources of news or views to pursue, they can control what they read, listen to, or watch, and who they interact with. In addition, individuals are free to form and join groups and peacefully come together to oppose government policy. This is confirmed by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that "everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and further in case of India under Article 19 of the Constitution that secures individual freedom to protest peacefully. This is vital to democracy, as it encourages people to exercise their right to equality and to engage in decision-making processes. Fourthly, the government is a system of law-making. The rule of law safeguards the interests of people, preserves order and controls the power of government. According to the constitution, all people are equal. This ensures that no one should be discriminated against on the grounds of their nationality, sexuality, ethnicity or gender. Democracy advocates for citizens to be viewed fairly as independent actors in the process of self-government. This form of equality is the core of democracy in that it speaks to the equality of the political agency. In this theory, there is no one above the rules. The rule is equal, unbiased and upheld by courts which are independent of the other government branches.

Democracy in every culture is important for people to stay identified with their governments.

“Democracy implies the existence of those civil and political freedoms to speak, publish, assemble and organise that are necessary for political debate” – Huntington

Democracy is not an ideal form of government due to persistent obvious reasons such as – short termism (Due to their electoral cycles, democracies struggle to focus on long-term problems and usually remain mired in short-term policy approaches), pain aversion (To the limited extent they do manage to look to the long term, democratic politicians are averse to imposing near-term pain for long-term gain because of their need to keep voters happy for the next election.), elite capture (By opening up decision-making power to competition among politicians who are constantly in need of money for elections, democratic systems are prone to becoming captured by the wealthy.), division and conflict (Competitive elections foment or exacerbate destructive societal divisions, generating conflict and undercutting a strong sense of national unity and purpose), voter ignorance (Relying on ordinary citizens to choose leaders and make judgments among them based on policy performance condemns democracies to leadership and policy choices that reflect chronic voter ignorance and irrationality), which means that there is constant need of change in the political system so that we can evolve towards achieving the goal envisioned by the great leaders of the world. It has been proven that due to these changes, not only the developing countries but also the developed countries of the world, face huge changes and challenges during there operations as a government to ensure the constitutional rights to the people.

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