DEMOCRACY | MEANING, TYPES, FEATURES, ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

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Democracy is a system of government where the people have the power to choose their representatives through elections. 

Abraham Lincoln defined "Democracy as the government of the people, by the people and for the people".


It can be broadly defined as a form of government in which citizens obtain all of the characteristics of a democratic rule manifested in an increase in the quantity and quality of citizen's rights and freedom, particularly the right to participate in making decisions that affect their lives.

The word ''democracy'' is a combination of two greeks words: ''Demos'', which means people, and ''Cratos'' meaning rule. Therefore, Democracy can simply be defined as the rule by the people.

Democracies fall into two categories: Direct and indirect democracy

1. Direct democracy: In this type of democracy, Citizens participate directly in making decisions relating to their lives without the involvement of elected or appointed officials. In other words, direct democracy is a kind of democracy in which citizens, rather than elected officials, make decisions about government policies, laws, and regulations.

Direct democracy is most feasible when there are a limited number of individuals - for example, in a community organization, tribal council, or local unit of a labor union- where members can gather in a single room to discuss issues and make decisions by consensus or majority vote. 

Direct democracy is commonly associated with the Greek old city of Athens. Because of this, Direct democracy is sometimes called Athenian democracy or pure democracy.

2. Indirect democracy: This is the most common type of democracy in the world today. In an indirect democracy, People elect representatives to make decisions relating to government policies, laws, and regulations on their behalf.

In other words, indirect democracy is a type of government where people elect representatives to act on their behalf on issues that concern them. Because people choose representative, indirect democracy is also called representative democracy. The United States is the most obvious example of representative democracy.

FEATURES OF DEMOCRACY

1. Government by the people: Democracy is a form of government where people have the power to choose their representative to act on their behalf on issues that concern them.

2. Protection of human rights: Democracies recognize that one of their primary responsibilities is to safeguard fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and religion, the right to equal protection under the law, and the opportunity to organize and participate fully in the political, economic, and cultural life of society.

3. Periodic elections: One of the obvious features of democracy is periodic elections. Regular, free, and fair elections are held in democracies open to all individuals of voting age. For example, In the US, presidential elections are held every four years.

4. Citizen participation: Anyone of legal voting age can vote and be voted for in a democracy. This contrasts with monarchy where only those descended from the monarch's bloodline are eligible to rule.

5. Political tolerance: Tolerance and cooperation, are core virtues in democratic societies. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit".

ADVANTAGES OF DEMOCRACY

1. Holds government accountable: Democratic governments are directly accountable to the people that they are representing since such people can easily remove them from office using election.

More so, elected officials who perform poorly while in the office are forced to face the law either during or after they serve the state.

2. Sense of belonging: Democracy gives people a sense of belonging because they know the power to elect and remove their leader belongs to them.

Additionally, Democracy also creates that sense of satisfaction and belonging because people know that they can be elected into office.

3. Averts dictatorship: Dictatorship is a government in which a single individual or groups of individuals exercise absolute control over the affairs of a state and disregard any form of constitutional limitations.

Because democratically elected leaders are bound by term limits, they are unlikely to take complete control of the state's operations.

Furthermore, the principle of checks and balance present in most democracies also ensure that the president does not become a dictator.

4. Protection of human rights: Democracy is unique in that it recognizes and protects the fundamental human rights of the citizens, and Such rights may be enforced in court if violated.

5. Equality: Democracy is also unique because ideally, it treats everyone as equal before the law. Because of this, anyone who is found guilty is punished for his/her actions. 

Even legitimate leaders in a democratic state are required to face the law during or after their service of the nation.

Equality also ensures that all votes cast in a democratic state are counted, regardless of the socio-economic condition of the person who cast the vote.

DISADVANTAGES OF DEMOCRACY

1. High cost of governance: To support the national and state assemblies, as well as the executives' retinue of personal aides, democracy requires a large amount of national income.

To conduct elections and electioneering campaigns alone, huge sums of money are spent. To put it in numbers, the US 2020 election costs a whopping $14 billion. 

Such funds could have been utilized in other sectors of the economy assuming the US was a Non-democratic state.

2. Creates political division: Because democracy is usually associated with a multiparty system, the state may experience political divisions which can lead to unhealthy competition.

3. Chaotic transfer of power: The transfer of power between Trump and Biden created a lot of controversies, protests, and counter-protest. It even escalated to the point of American citizens attacking the Capitol building.

This is just one of many troubles associated with the transfer of power in a democracy.

4. Policy Inconsistencies: On the 4th of November, 2020, The United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement. The United States rejoined the pact less than 5 months later, following a new change of government. This is one of the inconsistencies associated with a change of government.

Indeed, Democracies such as Nigeria has experienced slow progress in economic development because of large policy inconsistencies occasioned by a change of government,

5. Election may be abused: in Nigeria, for example, election seasons are routinely misused, with politicians bribing illiterate and ignorant individuals to vote for them

Furthermore, politicians usually falsified election results in order to attain elective positions. The result of all this is that incompetent leaders are unduly elected into office.

6. Notorious for ''promise and fail'' syndrome: The ultimate goal of most politicians is to win the elections, which he readily accomplishes by promising voters a variety of projects during the campaign. 

Once such a politician gets to the office, he immediately relents on his electioneering campaigns since he knows he can not be removed from office until another four years.

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