Practice Question – Explain democracy as an order of society. What are the factors preventing people’s participation in politics? [UPSC 2020]
Approach – Introduction, Define democracy, How democracy works in a society?, List and briefly explain the factors preventing people’s participation in politics in any society, Conclusion.
Democracy, or rule by the people, is an egalitarian form of government in which all the citizens of a nation determine public policy, the laws, and the actions of their state together. Democracy requires that all citizens have an equal opportunity to express their opinion. In practice, democracy is the extent to which a given system approximates this ideal, and a given political system is referred to as a democracy if it allows a certain approximation to ideal democracy. The most common system that is deemed democratic in the modern world is parliamentary democracy, in which the voting public takes part in elections and chooses politicians to represent them in a legislative assembly.
FEATURES OF DEMOCRACY
1. Democracy is based on sovereignty. People can exercise their power in democracy. They elect their representatives.
2. Democracy is based on political equality. It means all citizens irrespective of caste, creed, religion, race or sex are considered to be equal before law and enjoy equal political rights.
3. In a democratic set-up actual government is carried out with the help of the party which obtains the majority of votes. Support of majority is accepted by all.
4. In the Indian democracy, the Council of Ministers both in states and centre are collectively responsible to their respective legislatives. No minister is alone responsible for any act of the government.
5. Democratic government must provide institutions through which public opinion on various matters can be formed. Legislature provides the most important platform to estimate and express the public opinion.
6. In a democratic set up majority rules but opinions of minorities are also given respect. They are encouraged to give their opinion. Democracy being a government by free discussion and criticism encourages both the positive and negative aspects of any proposal.
7. Democracy provides the individual dignity by giving various rights to the individual. For example, the right to freedom of speech and expression, right to form association or union, educational and cultural rights.
8.Democracy is based on consent in general but not on force or coercion. By collecting consent from majority through dialogue, debate and discussion the problems can be solved.
9. Most of the democratic countries have welfare government. Democracy is a powerful weapon through which all round welfare is possible. As a welfare government it retains individual’s freedom, liberty, dignity etc.
10. Democracy is characterised by independent judiciary. The judiciary does not depend on executive or legislature. No government organ can influence judiciary
TYPES OF DEMOCRACY
Direct Democracy vs. Representative Democracy
A direct democracy is a system of government in which public decisions are made by the people directly, rather than by elected representatives. Generally only possible in small communities, although elements of direct democracy exist in California’s referenda, initiatives, and recall elections. A representative democracy is a form of government in which representatives are elected to make policy and enforce laws while representing the citizens. All modern democratic countries are representative, not direct, democracies. A representative democracy is also known as a republic.
Constitutional Democracy vs. Non-constitutional Democracy
A constitutional democracy is a system of government based on popular sovereignty in which the structures, powers, and limits of government are set forth in a constitution.
A non-constitutional democracy is a form of government that does not have, or follow, constitutional rules. The government does whatever those currently in power choose to do. For a citizen, such governments are unpredictable and they may violate a person’s rights with impunity.
Federal Democracy vs. Unitary Democracy
A federal democracy is a system of government in which power is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (like states or provinces). Each enforces its own law directly on it citizens and neither the national government nor constituent political units can alter the arrangement without the consent of the other.
A unitary democracy is a system of government in which constitutional authority lies in the hands of a single central government. Administrative divisions (subnational units) created by the central government are responsible for the everyday administration of government, but exercise only powers the central government chooses to delegate. Great Britain is an example of a country with a unitary system of government.
Presidential Democracy vs. Parliamentary Democracy
A presidential democracy is a form of government in which the executive branch is elected separately from the legislative branch. The chief executive, the president, is elected for a fixed term and cannot be removed except by extraordinary measures. The powers vested in the president are usually balanced against those vested in the legislature. In the American presidential system, the legislature must debate and pass bills. The president has the power to veto a bill, preventing its adoption. However, the legislature may override the president’s veto if it can muster enough votes.
A parliamentary democracy is a form of representative democracy in which political power is vested in an elected legislature, but the executive and legislative branches are not separate. The elected legislature (parliament) chooses the chief executive (prime minister). The legislature may remove the prime minister at any time by a vote of no confidence and often approves the prime minister’s cabinet members. The fusion of the legislative and executive branches in the parliamentary system leads to party members voting along party lines.
MERITS OF DEMOCRACY
1. Democracies give people a chance to become personally involved with their government.
2. The structure of a democracy works to reduce issues with exploitation.
3. The structure of a democracy gives every vote an equal amount of weight during an election.
4. There is more consistency available in a democracy than in other government structures.
5. Democracy does not create a centralized power base for ruling over the people.
6. A democracy transitions power smoothly while establishing legitimacy.
DEMERITS OF DEMOCRACY
1. Democracy is ineffective unless voters educate themselves on governing decisions.
2. The structure of democracy depends upon the will of the majority.
3. Democracy can encourage mob rule.
4. Democracy requires more time to implement changes.
5. There is still the risk of creating a conflict of interest within the government.
6. It is the rule of majority and minorities are sidelined.
Democracy is a system of government that bases its legitimacy on the participation of the people. While democratic governments come in many varieties, they are uniformly characterized by (1) competitive elections, (2) the principle of political and legal equality, and (3) a high degree of individual freedom, or civil liberties. Due to reliance on elections, democracies have as their default principle the concept of majority rule. However, one of the dominant tensions running through democratic societies is the balance struck between the will of the majority and minority rights. The compromise between these two principles differs in different democratic states.