JAC Board Class 9th Social Science Notes Civics Chapter 1 What is Democracy? Why Democracy?
- Democracy is the most prevalent form of government in the world today and it is expanding in even more countries.
- The aim here to understand clearly the bare minimum features of a democratic form of government.
- In this chapter, we will discuss about the meaning, definition and features of democracy.
- After going through this chapter, we would be able to distinguish a democratic form of government from a non-democratic government.
→ What is Democracy?
- The word democracy comes from the Greek word ‘Demokratia’, in which ‘demos’ means people and ‘kratia’ means rule, i.e., rule by the people.
- ‘Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people’ Abraham Lincoln.
- Definition of Democracy-Democracy is a form of government in which the rulers are elected by the people.
- From this definition, we can clearly separate non-democratic governments from democratic ones.
- For instance, army rulers of Myanmar are not elected by the people, and are, thus, non-democratic.
- Dictators like Pinochet of Chile are not elected by the people. This is also applicable to the kings of Saudi Arabia and Nepal.
- If we accept this definition, it implies that almost every government is a democracy that holds an election. But it would be very misleading.
- We need to carefully distinguish between a government that is a democracy and one that pretends to be a democracy.
→ Features of Democracy
- Rulers elected by the people take all the major decisions.
- Elections offer a choice and fair opportunity to the people to change the current rulers.
- This choice and opportunity is available to all the people on an equal basis.
- The exercise of this choice leads to government limited by basic rulers of the constitution and citizens rights.
→ Mbgor Decisions by Elected Leaders
- In Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf led a military coup in October 1999.
- He overthrew a democratically-elected government and declared himself the chief executive of the country. Later, he changed his designation to President.
- In Pakistan, elected representatives had some power but the final power was in the hands of military officers and General Musharraf himself.
- This condition cannot be termed as people’s rule.
- Thus, first feature of democracy is that, in a democracy, the final decision-making power must rest with those elected by the people’.
→ Free and Fair Electoral Composition
- The example of China and Mexico will give us an understanding of this feature of democracy.
- In China, elections are regularly held after every five years for electing the country’s parliament called Quanguo Renmin
- Daibiao Dahui (National People’s Congress).
- The National People’s Congress has the power to appoint the President of the country.
- Before contesting elections, each candidate needs the approval of the Chinese Communist Party.
- The government is always formed by the Communist Party.
- In Mexico, elections are held after every six years to elect its President.
- Mexico has never been under military or dictator’s rule.
- Till 2000, all the Presidential elections were won by the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party).
- Opposition parties did contest elections, but never managed to win.
- The PRI was known to use many dirty tricks to win elections.
- Conclusion of both the cases. In China, the elections do not offer the people any serious choice. They take to choose the ruling party and the candidates approved by it.
- In the Mexican example, people seemed to really have a choice, but in practice, they
had no choice.
- There was no way the rulling party could be defeated, even if people were against it. These are not fair elections.
- Thus, another feature of democracy is that, “democracy must be based on a free and fair election where those currently in power have a fair chance of losing.”
→ One Person, One Vote, One Value
- The principle of universal adult franchise is accepted by almost all over the world. But there are many instances of denial of this equal right to vote.
- In Saudi Arabia, women do not have the right to vote.
- Estonia has made its citizenship rules in such a way that people belonging to Russian minority find it difficult to get the right to vote.
- In Fiji, the electoral system is such that the vote of an indigenous Fijian has more value than that of an Indian Fijian.
- Democracy is based on a fundamental principle of political equality.
- This gives us the third feature of democracy; ‘In a democracy, each adult citizen must have one vote and each vote must have one value.’
→ Rule of Law and Respect for Rights
- From the case of Zimbabwe, this feature of democracy can be understood in a better way.
- ZANU-PF party leader, Robert Mugabe, has been the president of the country since independence.
- Election are always won by this party through violence and harassment of the opposition politicians and journalists.
- Thus, there is no rule of law and citizen’s rights are not respected.
- Robert Mugabe was forced out of office in 2017.
- The example of Zimbabwe shows that popular approval of the rulers is necessary in a democracy, but it is not sufficient. Popular governments can be undemocratic.
- The state should respect the basic rights of citizens, like-freedom of expression, freedom to protest and freedom to take political action. Further, these rights should be protected by the judiciary whose orders should be obeyed by all.
- Thus another feature of democracy is that ‘a democratic government rules within i nmt s set by constitutional law and citizens’ rights.’
→ Summary Definition
- Through a series of examples, we marked out various features of democracy as a form of government.
- Accordingly, democracy is a form of government in which: (i) Rulers elected by the people take all the major decisions; (ii) Elections offer a choice and fair opportunity to the people to change the current rulers; (iii) This choice and opportunity is available to all the people on an equal basis; and (iv) The exercise of this choice leads to a government limited by basic rules of the constitution and citizens’ rights.
→ Arguments against Democracy
- Leaders keep changing in a democracy. This leads to instability.
- Democracy is all about political competition and power-play. There is no scope for morality.
- Democracy leads to delays.
- Elected leaders do not know the best interest of the people. It leads to bad decisions.
- Democracy leads to corruption, for it is based on electoral competition.
- Ordinary people don’t know what is good for them; they should not decide anything.
→ Arguments for Democracy
- A democratic government is a better government because it is a more accountable form of government.
- Democracy improves the quality of decision-making.
- Democracy provides a method to deal with various differences and conflicts.
- Democracy enhances the dignity of citizens.
- Democracy is better than other forms of government because it allows us to correct its own mistakes.
- The most common form that democracy taken in our times is that of a representative democracy. A majority is allowed to take decisions on behalf of all the people.
→ Broader Meanings of Democracy
- A democratic decision involves consultation with and consent of all those who are affected by that decision.
- Those who are not powerful have the same way in taking the decision as those who are powerful. This can apply to a government or a family or any other organization.
- Thus, democracy is also a principle that can be applied to any sphere of life.
- In a democracy, every citizen must be able to play an equal role in decision making.
→ Democracy: Democracy is a form of government in which the rulers are elected by the people.
→ Democratic government: A democratic government is a government in which citizens have
right to practice their fundamental rights and also their is full transparency between citizens of the country and the ruling government. Some examples of democratic government are India, USA, UK, France, etc.
→ Non-democratic government: A non-democratic government is a government run by officials who are not elected by citizens and are not accountable to citizens.
→ Monarchy: (i) The system of government or rule by a king or queen, (ii) a country that is governed by a king or queen.
→ Referendum: A public opinion poll seeking public aproval/disapproval to a specific proposal.
→ Dictatorship: A system of government in which all powers vest with one person.
→ Universal adult franchise: Universal adult franchise means all citizens who are 18 years and above have the right to vote, irrespective of their caste or education, religion, colour, race and economic conditions.
→ Autocratic: Autocratic describes a way of rulling, but not in a nice way. An autocratic leader is one who rules with an iron fist. In other words, someone who behaves like a dictator.
→ Corruption: Corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal offence undertaken by a person or orgarlization entrusted with a position of authority, to acquire illicit benefit or abuse power for one’s own gain.
→ Decision-making: Decision-making is the process of making choices by identifying, a decision, gathering information and assessing alternative resolutions.