Chapter 1 from CBSE Class 9 Political Science textbook, Democratic Politics- I, on What is a Democracy? What are its features, is built on some simple definition of democracy. The central motive of the book is to help students to understand the features of a democratic form of government. By going through this article, the differentiation between democratic and non-democratic forms of government can be sorted easily. Democracy is one of the most prevalent forms of government around the world and is expanding rapidly. However, certain questions linger in our minds- Why is it so? What makes it better than other forms of government? and understand the relevant topics thoroughly.
What is Democracy? Why Democracy?
Definition of Democracy
A form of government in which the rulers are elected by the people is termed democracy. One of the chief factors of all democracies is that people choose the government. Democracy helps students to demarcate between democratic and non-democratic governments.
For example, in a non-democratic government, people do not elect rules in Myanmar. Charge of the army of the country took over as rulers and in this decision, people said nothing. Dictators like Pinochet (Chile) are not elected by the people and applied to monarchies also. The king of Saudi Arabia rules because they are born into the royal family, not because of the condition that people opt for them or choose them to rule.
In a representative democracy, the majority of elected representatives have the authority to make choices on behalf of most of the people, rather than the whole population ruling or taking decisions.
Features of Democracy
The definition and meaning of democracy give rise to various important questions, some important questions are:
- Who are the rulers in this definition?
- What kind of elections constitutes a democratic election?
- Who are the people who can elect the rulers or get elected as rulers?
- Finally, What form of government is democracy?
Features of Democracy
Major Decisions by Elected Leaders
In Pakistan, the rule of democracy is not followed holistically. In Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf led a certain military coup in 1999. He went on to become the President of the country by overthrowing the democratically elected government. In 2002, he held a referendum in the country which granted him an extension of five years after passing this “Legal Framework Order” elections and held in both national as well as provincial assemblies, and certain elected representatives were given powers; but the final power rested with General Musharraf himself and therefore we could conclude that Pakistan was not a democratic nation, as these type of things happen in dictatorships and monarchies. In a democracy, the final decision-making power rests with those who are elected by the people.
Free and Fair Electoral Competition
In China, the country’s parliament, called Quanguo Renmin Daibiao Dahui (National People’s Congress) is held every five years, and before the contestation of elections, a candidate needs to have the approval of the Chinese Communist Party and the government is mostly formed by the Communist Party. Alternatively, since its independence in 1930, Mexico holds elections after every six years for electing its President and till 2000 every election came to be won by a party called PRI or Institutional Revolutionary Party. Both the above examples show that elections are not held on the basis of elections by people. Democracy is always based on free and fair elections
One person, one vote, one value
Political equality is the mainstay of democracy and there are many instances where the equal right to vote has been denied. Till 2015, women of Saudi Arabia were not given the right to vote, in Estonia arrangements were made in citizenship rules in such a way that people of the Russian minority had it difficult to right to vote. In the case of Fiji, a vote from indigenous Fiji has more value than any of the Indian Fijians; which is not democratic in nature. A feature of democracy that is highlighted is, each of the adult citizens must have one vote, and one vote, in turn, should have one value.
Rule of Law and Respect for Rights
Zimbabwe had gained independence from the White minority by 1980 and from that moment, the country came to be ruled by a party that led to the freedom struggle, called ZANU-PF. The party leader was President Mungabe, who was popular and had used unfair practices in elections and also limited the rights for criticizing the running president. Media like television and radio were controlled by the government and gave perspective only from the ruling party. Independent media people were harassed by the government which went against them. This was not democratic, as democracy rules within the limits of constitutional law and citizens’ rights.
We can infer the following points for democracy:
- Rulers who are elected by the people take over the majority of decisions.
- Elections offer a choice as well as a fair opportunity for the people for changing the current rulers.
- Choice and opportunity are available to all people on a more equal basis.
- The exercise of power in this form of government is limited by rules present in the constitution and citizens’ rights.
Some important cons, as well as merits of democracy, are as mentioned below:
Cons of Democracy
- Instability in democracy as the leaders keep changing.
- Democracy is about political competition, and power play and mostly leaves no room for morality.
- Many levels of people have to be consulted in the case of democracy which leads to many delays.
- Leaders who are elected mostly do not have an idea about the best interests of their people which results in taking bad decisions.
- Corruption is present in democracy as it is based on the electoral form of competition.
- Ordinary people do not know what is good for them and because of this, they do not decide most things.
From the cons pointed out, we can understand that democracy is not the ideal form of governance, but comparatively better than other forms of government.
Arguments in Favour of Democracy
Democratic government is better form of government as it is accountable to the people: We can take the example of the Indian Famine and the China Famine in 1958-1961. China had to face famine more severely as compared to India despite the economic conditions. The main reason is the way the Indian government responded to food scarcity as compared to the Chinese government. Democracy is a better form of government in responding to the needs of the people as compared to others.
Democracy improves quality of decision-making: Discussion and deliberation are some important parts of democracy and democratic decisions always involve more people and opinions and these differences are more in a democratic country like India. These also help in pointing out mistakes and time to take important decisions can reduce the chances of rush decisions.
Democracy provides a method to deal with differences and conflicts: Differences are bound to be present in a socially diverse country like India; as people belong to different regions, speak a variety of languages, practice different religions, and belong to different castes. In a democracy, there is no one permanent winner or even loser and different groups of people live together.
Democracy enhances the dignity of citizens: Democracy is based on the idea of political equality and gives recognition to the poorest and least educated have the same status as the richest and most educated ones.
Democracy allows us to correct our own mistakes: Mistakes in a democracy cannot be hidden for long and makes space for public discussion of the mistakes made. There is also room for correction and rulers to change their decisions and at times the ruler is itself changed.
Hence, from the above points, we can infer that even though democracy is not without its defects, however, it still is a better form of government than any other alternatives present.
Broader Meaning of Democracy
One of the most important aspects of democracy is a representative type of government. All people in a democracy do not rule, but a majority is allowed to take decisions which are on behalf of the people, by the elected representatives. The representative type of government is important because of the following reasons:
- Democracies in modern times are made up of a large number of people, and it is physically not possible to sit together and come up with a collective decision.
- Even if that would be possible, the citizens do not have the time or skills, or even desire to take part in such decision-making.
Democracy is not only used to describe an existing form of government but also an ideal standard for an example that every democracy should aim to become. Having a proper understanding of democracy and identifying its weaknesses also helps to distinguish between a good and an otherwise democracy. The most common form of democracy which exists is the elected form of government. Hence, democracy has a much broader meaning.
Frequently Asked Questions on CBSE Class 9 Political Science Notes Chapter 1: What is Democracy, Why Democracy?
Q 1: What is the meaning of democracy?
Democracy refers to the form of government in which the citizens have the right to choose their own rulers and this is done by means of a fair election where contestants participate and democratic government is answerable to the citizens.
Q 2: What are the features of a democracy?
Some important features of democracy are as follows:
- Rulers of the nation are elected by their representatives.
- Elections are held on a regular basis for choosing rulers.
- A rule of law is followed.
Q 3: Why should we have a democracy?
We should have democracy because of the following reasons:
- Equality and freedom for the actions.
- Voting leads to the proper selection of government officials.
- Enhances for women empowerment.