Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, November 15th, 2019

Developing Content and Forms of Democracy


Developing Content and Forms of Democracy

Especially in  case of developing countries, the different forms of democracy prevailing in various nations seem to have failed to give desired results. Our failure lies in the fact that despite adopting a democratic structure of governance, they  have not been able to evolve the kind of norms, values, attitudes and style of conduct, conducive to the functioning of a healthy democratic system. In these countries still the feeling of casteism, communalism and regionalism,  occupy the minds of many of our people vitiating the entire Political process. The anatomy of parliamentary democracy is still a challenge for us because it depends upon habits of consent and compromise which are attributes only of mature political societies.
Expanded meanings of democracy
Democracy on the basis of its vast history comprises narrow as well as wide meaning. To some it is a form of government, to others a way of social life. The political aspect of democracy found its earliest roots when men protested against systems which upon one ground or another excluded them from a share in power. Oppressive and discriminatory forms of government were opposed by the people because of privileges which were made confined to a narrow range of persons. At the juncture mass of the people sought the extension of such privileges to more people on the ground that limitation was not justifiable. This notion of equality paved the way to the essence of the democratic idea–the effort of men to affirm their own essence and to remove all barriers to that affirmation. The development is therefore the demand for equality, the demand that the system of power be erected upon the similarities and not the differences between men. Time and place played a significant role in determining the substance of the term but with the passage of time its natural character extended to electorate, the relation between government and the people, the absence of wide economic differences between citizens, the refusal to recognise privileges built on birth or wealth, race or creed.
What is perfect democracy?
In its larger sphere democracy is not a way of governing whether by majority or otherwise, but primarily a way of determining who shall govern and, broadly, to what ends. The only way in which the people, all the people, can determine who shall govern is by referring the question to public opinion and accepting on each occasion the verdict of the polls.  The growth of democracy has always been associated with the free discussion of political issues, with the right to differ concerning them and with the settlement of difference, not by force majeure but by resort to the counting of votes. The right to differ did not end with the victory of the majority but was inherent in the system. It establishes a new and more integral relationship between community and state.
Apart from a specific form of government, the perfect form of democracy also refers to situations and systems. When a person lives in a genuine democracy, he knows it, feels it, and breathes it. A basic principle of democracy is a full recognition of the dignity and worth of the individual. Man’s dignity, in the democratic view, is not something conferred on him or legislated into existence. It is part of his birth right as a human being. In a true democracy, money, machines, and systems are important only as they contribute to man’s welfare.  But in the large states of modern day we can not hope a democratic form of government to be the government “by” the people in the literal sense of the term. With the growing authority of some assembly of the people or of the people’s representative, such as the Greek ecclesia, the Roman comitia, the English Parliament, development of representative institutions began to take a definite shape.
Instruments of modern democracy
Modern Parliament is a representative body through which the democratic ideals are hoped to be served. It is a means rather than an end in itself. Its aim is to achieve the ideals of a mature political society. Earlier the struggle for the attainment of democratic institutions has taken forms as various as the conditions it encountered. The eighteenth century, in particular, popularised three ideas. English experience led to the belief that Parliament is the parent of civil society. The American Revolution made popular the notion that a discontented people has the right to cashier its governors. The French Revolution established the principle that autocracy is the necessary parent of special privilege. All these necessarily increased the rate of progress towards democratic institutions. When in later years representative system was criticized as leaving the members of Parliament the master of the electorate between elections, constitutions began to embody the initiative, the referendum and the recall as the necessary safeguards in a democratic state.
Among political thinkers in ancient and medieval times, marsiglio of Padua with the experience of Italian cities in his mind, William of Ockham and Thomas Aquinas’ insistence on an elective monarchy played a very positive role in consolidating the concept of representation. Though ecclesiastical in origin the notion was based on the famous Phrase Quod omnes tangit, ab omnibus approbetur’ which showed a sense that the exclusion of an interest may make the representation of a body imperfect. The idea of representation was of seminal importance because it gave those excluded from a share in the organs of government the opportunity of grievance. The cause of representation was further championed by John Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau who sounded a deeper note and denied the legitimacy of all government in which the general will of all the people was not the effective lawmaking power.
Keeping in view the large number of population, the fact emerged that decisions cannot be taken without government by parties. “Party organisation,” as Bagehot said, “is the vital principle of representative government.” Without the party system in some form it is impossible to get that concentration of voters for decision which is essential with electorates of the modern size. But parties, inevitable as they are, have brought with them a host of complex problems. The method of choosing candidates, the proper size of a constituency, the prevention of corruption, the exact powers which an elected member should exert, the representation of minorities are only the outstanding issues for which suitable machinery need to be devised. In order to achieve a functional society in effective terms the new democratic theory calls for a thorough overhauling of existing institutions, particularly on the political side.

Dr. Rajkumar Singh is Professor and Head of P.G.Department of Political Science, BNMU, West Campus, P.G.Centre, Saharsa-852201. Bihar, India.

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