What Is Democracy?

Democracy

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Introduction

Domocracy. What does it involve? Many people think that elections every few years is enough to make a country a democracy. This is not so. This essay looks at the requirements for a democracy.

1 Votes

Democracy requires votes. Every adult person should be able to vote regardless of gender, colour, race, religion, sexuality or political belief. Some countries deny the vote to people in prison. This is only valid if there are no political prisoners.

The following are examples of countries that are (or were) not democracies because voting is not allowed or is restricted.

The voting may take different forms:

Voting may be by region (state, county or constituency) or proportional. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

2 Freedom

For votes to meaningful, the voter must have freedom and not be intimidated. Voting must be secret to allow complete freedom to vote.

The following are examples of countries that are or were not democracies because of a lack of real freedom to vote.

3 Inclusion

For voting to be meaningful, there must be a real choice for the voter. Excluding parties or people from standing as candidates lessens voter choice.

The following are examples of countries that are or were not democracies because of a lack of real choice of candidates.

Another way of removing choice and real power in an election is by gerrymandering. The election must be based on constituencies for gerrymandering to be possible.

This occurred for many years up to 1976 in Northern Ireland (a province of the UK). A city would have two populations: half would be Catholic; the other half Protestant.

The Protestant part of the city would be divided into more constituencies than the Catholic side so there would always be more representitives from the Protestant side.

4 Finance

It is possible to have many political parties but still have an uneven election.

The financing of political parties can be an issue.

It is illegal for foreigners to make contributions to political parties in the USA - the USA however frequently makes donations to favoured parties in elections in an attempt to influence the result. Three examples are Nicaragua in the 1980s, Chile in 1970 and Iraq in 2003.

In many countries a few selected parties are financed by business while the majorty are financed only by their members. Parties with more finance can advertise more to get their message across.

5 Information

People need information and education if they are to use their vote effectively.

In most countries of the world the providers of information, the media, are often owned by a few large corporations. This lessens sources of news and information and does not allow people to make informed choices.

This is a big problem in most Western countries which have votes for all, little political intimidation, many political parties and fair voting systems.

Conclusion

A country is only democratic if people have a right to elect the representitives of their choice with a full undestanding of the issues.

© 2006 KryssTal


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