Democracy brings together the views and interests of all citizens so that the country's future can be determined in light of all of these perspectives. Each country has its own democratic system; while each country's democratic system is unique, democracy is founded on certain fundamental principles. Moreover, it entails both the right to disagree and the acceptance of those who disagree, as well as tolerance for divergent viewpoints and the use of dialogue to resolve conflict.
Origins of the Word
The term is derived from the Greek (dmokratia), which was coined in the middle of the fifth century BCE from the words "people"(dmos) and "rule" (kratos) to refer to the political systems in place at the time in several Greek city-states, most notably Athens.
Democracy means "rule of the people." It is a form of government in which the people retain ultimate authority and exercise it directly or indirectly through a system of representation, that typically includes free elections held on a regular basis. The concept of democracy has evolved significantly over time. While the most prevalent form of democracy today is a representative democracy, direct democracy was the original form of democracy.
Forms of Democracy
There are different forms of democracy such as:
- Direct Democracy
- Representative Democracy
- Constitutional Democracy
- Participatory Democracy
- Liberal Democracy
- Economic Democracy
- Social Democracy
- Elite Democracy
- Majoritarian Democracy
All terms are used to refer to various forms of democracy. While these terms frequently overlap and are frequently incompatible, there is almost universal agreement that democracy is a positive thing.
Characteristics of Democracy
Respectively, elections held on a regular basis are not the only defining feature of democracy. There are several additional principles that must be present in order for a democracy to function properly. They include the following:
1. Respect for Human Rights
The majority of democracies have a constitution outlining each individual's human rights. They typically include the fundamental rights that underpin democracy, such as the following:
- The right to vote.
- The right to equality.
- Freedom of speech and assembly.
- Freedom of religion.
2. Multi-party System and Political Tolerance
A multi-party or two-party system is critical to the functioning of any democracy. Multiple strong political parties contesting in the elections ensure that voters have a choice and that diverse and competing views and interests are represented in parliaments. In a democracy, active opposition parties investigate and debate the work of the ruling party or ruling parties in the case of a party coalition "as in Germany." This can help the ruling party become more accountable to the electorate.
Multi-party systems necessitate political tolerance on the part of all individuals, including elected officials. Tolerance on a political level entails accepting and respecting the views of groups and individuals that differ from one's own. Individuals should be free to express their opinions and views as long as they do not violate the rights of others.
3. Democratic Voting System
Instead of having one person make all of the decisions in a representative democracy, citizens elect representatives to pass legislation and govern the country. This is accomplished through regular elections conducted in accordance with the country's constitution. Democratic voting systems are defined by the following characteristics:
- Universal suffrage.
- Elections are held on a regular schedule.
- Elections are free and fair.
- Majority rule - the political party or party coalition with the most votes gets to govern.
4. Respect for the Rule of Law
The rule of law is a principle stating that public officials may only exercise authority and make decisions if they are expressly authorized by the law. They are not permitted to act arbitrarily or for ulterior motives. They must act in accordance with laws that are transparent, widely publicized, stable, and applied equally. Moreover, the process of enacting, administering, and enforcing laws must be transparent, equitable, and efficient. Additionally, it means that all decisions must be made in accordance with applicable law.
Public officials cannot act arbitrarily or without being authorized by law, because citizens are protected from the arbitrary exercise of power under the system. The rule of law is upheld by independent courts. Only independent courts have the authority to convict individuals of committing a crime. Additionally, courts can invalidate actions taken by public officials that are not authorized by law.
In conclusion, a society without the rule of law is unpredictable, and its citizens' human rights are unprotected. The proper application of the rule of law enables citizens to benefit from democracy's benefits.
5. Democratic Governance
Democratic governance relates to the organization and functioning of a democratic government; what occurs between elections is critical for a vibrant democracy. The separation of powers is a defining feature of democratic government; state power is divided into three branches:
- The executive.
- The legislature.
- The judiciary.
Each branch checks the power of the other two in order to maintain a balance of power. The legislature is responsible for enacting legislation. The executive is responsible for administering and implementing the law and other policies; this also includes the judiciary's independence in interpreting and enforcing the law. This check-and-balances system is intended to prevent the abuse of power.
Democratic governance should also be guided by the principles and practices of accountability to the electorate, including transparency, responsiveness, effectiveness, and efficiency.
6. Citizens Participation
Individual empowerment is the goal of the democratic system. Democracies enable ordinary citizens to participate freely in social and political life and to shape their society and the future of the country. Successful democracies require engaged citizens; thus, it is about citizens' participation in and potential contribution to democracy. In practice, this means that you can and should participate in elections through voting or even by becoming a member of a political party. Additionally, active citizens monitor the performance of the government and mobilize other ordinary citizens on critical issues. Every citizen has a role to play in shaping a successful democracy.
- When all six of these characteristics are present, it indicates a robust democracy. By implementing and defending these characteristics, well-functioning democracies are more likely to provide the benefits of democracy (or societal characteristics).
Benefits of Democracy
Among the benefits of being a citizen of a democratic country are the following:
- Human Dignity.
- Good Governance.