Democracy is a Government of People, For the People and By the People
‘Democracy’ is a type of government that is elected by the country’s people. This term has been derived from two Greek words – ‘Demos’ meaning people and ‘Kratos’ meaning rule. Literally translated as ‘rule of people’, such a form of government includes a set of specific government institutions headed by freely elected representatives. Practically, it goes beyond its theoretical definition. At an advanced level, it offers its citizens various rights, freedoms, and other ideals. Democracy rests upon the fundamental principle of majority rule. The term majority rule refers to the most preferred party or leader by adult citizens. A successful democracy largely depends upon the participation of its citizens in expressing their views and criticism of the actions of the elected government. Some of the key elements of democracy are the active participation of citizens, the rule of law, freedom of speech and expression, and a well-structured electoral system.
There are certain features of a democracy that enable its citizens to live a life of dignity. Democracy depends upon the roles and responsibilities of its citizens. Citizens are both active and passive participants in a democracy.
1. Human Rights:
The aim of the establishment of a democratic government is to promote and protect the various social, economic, and political interests of its citizenry. With this motive, human rights are an important factor for a successful democracy. Human rights include the rights of citizens that cannot be taken away by the state. Such rights also include criticizing the policies and programmes of the government. However, certain restrictions are imposed on an individual’s liberty so much so it does not cost the decorum of a nation. Public opinion is of severe importance in a democracy. It can be considered a tool to control politicians.
The role of the media is also an indispensable one, and it serves as a link between the government and the people. This ‘freedom of the press’ helps citizens to shape public opinions on the functioning and transparency of the ruling party.
2. Free And Fair Elections:
Democracy holds free and fair elections to choose representatives that govern the nation. The term ‘free elections‘ means that no citizen can be prevented from participating or standing for office. ‘Fair elections‘ means that adult voters can’t be deprived of their right to vote and elections will be conducted in a transparent manner. Besides the emphasis on free and fair elections, democracy holds frequent elections at regular time intervals to promote the interests of its citizens. Democracy is closely associated with the universal adult franchise. It means that the right to vote in a democracy is equitable. Neither caste, color, sex, gender, etc. are influential to this right.
For instance, in India, Lok Sabha elections are held after every five years and the Prime Minister is not directly elected by the people. Generally, he or she will be selected by the political party which secures an absolute majority in the lower house.
Every democracy is obligated to follow the principle of one vote, one value. It means every member of a democratic civil society is entitled to cast a vote which would have an equal value to any other citizen.
3. Constitutional Provisions:
In order to restrict the government from using unlimited powers, every democracy is subjected to follow authoritative fundamental laws enlisted in their respective constitutions. It lays down the rights of citizens and contains provisions to make the government accountable to the people.
4. Division Of Power:
There are three branches in a democracy namely executive, legislative, and judiciary. The legislature is responsible for framing and passing laws. The executive body performs the task of executing laws in the country. The judiciary is deemed to be independent of both the other branches. It ensures that laws made by the ruling party are in line with the constitution. If not, then, the judiciary has the power to declare the law as null and void and thus unconstitutional to be executed. This feature of ‘independence of the judiciary’ or ‘judicial review’ safeguards citizens and settles disputes arising between citizens and the government.
5. Decentralized Government:
Another important feature of democracy that makes it a people’s government is the division of power among different levels of government. This feature is also referred to as decentralization. The division of power between central, state, and local government governments makes the system more accessible and responsive to people’s problems. The parliament articulates the various aspirations of the population it represents. At the same time, it encourages the population to voice their political will for exhibiting democratic values.
Democratic pluralism is characterized by tolerance, acceptance, and recognition of diversity and differences among different political and social pressure groups. In a democracy, conflicting opinions are debated. Such oppositional views culminate in compromises which eventually are agreed upon by the different members. In a plural society, wherein citizens and party members hold different views on various political issues, decision-making is strengthened.
7. Majority Rules, Minority Rights:
An often-used phrase in association with democracy is “majority rule and minority rights”. The elected government is an outcome of majority votes cast by the people. The rights of minority groups are ethnic, religious, or any other kind does not depend upon the majority rule. It is the responsibility of the elected government to ensure that minorities are protected through individual rights and democratic laws and are not discriminated against.
It is essential for democracy that all those who hold public offices are accountable to the public. Such accountability entails the right to information, transparency in the working of political institutions; right to oppose any undemocratic move performed by the government, etc. It is important to create a conducive environment for genuine active participation of civilians in democratic processes.
To put it in a nutshell, a democratic government is elected by the people. The powers are also exercised by the people, that is, the rulers of a democratically elected party. Lastly, the aim of such an administrative system is the advocacy of people’s interests. People living in a democracy are the guardians of their own rights, thus, democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is both a goal that is yet to be pursued by many countries and a form of government serving people. It would not be wrong to consider it as a dynamic concept as it changes depending upon a variety of socio-economic, political, and cultural factors.