30 May, 2012

FJP Assignment : Democracy

FJP Assignment: What does it mean to have democracy in a county?

By: Nompumelelo Mncube

Democracy basically means when people choose their leaders and hold their leaders responsible for their policies and their manner in office.

The people themselves are the ones who decide who will stand for them in parliament.  Also they decide who will head the government at the national and local levels. They do this just by choosing between the competing parties in regular, free and fair elections.  The government is based on the approval of the governed.

In a democracy, the people play the role of being sovereign—they are the highest form of political authority. Power simply flows from the people to the leaders of government, who hold power only temporarily. Laws and policies have a need of majority support in parliament, but the rights of minorities are protected in various ways.

The people are free of charge to disapprove of their elected leaders and representatives. They can also observe how they conduct the business of government. The chosen representatives at the national and local levels have responsibility to listen to the people and respond to their needs and suggestions.

Elections have to occur at regular intervals, as arranged by law.  Those people in power cannot enlarge their terms in office without asking for the approval of the people again in an election. For elections to be free and fair, they have to be administered by a neutral, fair, and professional body that treats all political parties and candidates equally.

All parties and candidates must have the right to fight freely, to present their proposals to the voters both directly and through the mass media. Voters must be able to vote in secret, free of pressure and violence. Independent observers must be able to observe the voting and the vote counting to ensure that the process is free of corruption, intimidation, and fraud. Any country can hold an election, but for an election to be free and fair requires a lot of organization, preparation, and training of political parties, electoral officials, and civil society organizations who watches the process.

Furthermore the key role of citizens in a democracy is to participate in public life. Citizens have a responsibility to become updated about public issues, to watch carefully how their political leaders and representatives use their powers, and to express their own views and interests. Voting in elections is another important public duty of all citizens. But to vote sensibly, each citizen should listen to the views of the different parties and then make his or her own decision on whom to support. Participation can also involve campaigning for a political party or candidate, standing as a candidate for political office, debating public issues, attending community meetings, petitioning the government, and even protesting. 

A very important form of participation comes through active membership in independent, non-governmental organizations, what is also called the “civil society.” These organizations represent a variety of interests and beliefs:  farmers, workers, doctors, teachers, business owners, religious believers, women, students, human rights activists. 

Also it is important that women participate fully both in politics and in civil society. This requires efforts by civil society organizations to educate women about their democratic rights and responsibilities, improve their political skills, represent their common interests, and involve them in political life.

Therefore in democracy, participation in civic groups should be voluntary.  No one should be forced to join an organization against their will. Political parties are vital organizations in a democracy, and democracy is stronger when citizens become active members of political parties. However, no one should support a political party because he is pressured or threatened by others.  In a democracy, citizens are free to choose which party to support.

Democracy depends on citizen participation in all these ways.  But participation must be peaceful, respectful of the law, and tolerant of the different views of other groups and individuals.

Source List:

What is Democracy?
Ketchum, Richard M., 1922-
New York : Dutton, 1955.
[1st ed.]. 1955 

Democracy Article

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