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What are the essential elements of a democratic political system?

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Introduction

What are the essential elements of a democratic political system? In order to decide what elements are essential in a democratic political system it is necessary to first of all define democracy. The literal translation is 'rule by the people' but the term democracy has many connotations. Perhaps in its most straightforward sense a direct democracy would involve consulting the whole population on every issue and deciding the outcome in accordance with the views of the majority (or, if there is no absolute majority view - eg where the issue involves choosing from more than 2 options - the view which receives the most support). This democratic political system could be achieved in a small society and today with multiple resources such as the internet we are closer than ever before to being able to have a democracy that operates like this. However this form of governing is still generally thought to be impractical. People are too busy with the day to day running of their own lives to spend time considering and voting on every issue. ...read more.

Middle

Any such system would have to have rules, however, as to which (if any)other people are to be excluded. Next , a democratic political system will require rules which ensure that, so far as possible, the views which are expressed - and the votes which are cast - represent the true - and informed - views of the voters. A political system is not 'democratic' simply because elections or referendums are sometimes held - they must be genuinely 'free' elections and referendums. Saddam Hussein recently secured a 100% vote to maintain his position - but few of us would say that it therefore follows that Iraq operates a democratic political system. To ensure that the votes which are cast represent the true - and informed - views of the voters, a democratic political system will require rules which ensure that the voters are presented with a genuine choice of options or candidates, with information from a wide range of sources and with the protection of a secret ballot. ...read more.

Conclusion

Finally, a truly 'democratic' political system must cater for the fact that 'rule by the people' does not mean simply 'rule by the majority': 'rule by the people' does not mean 'rule by 51% of the people'. A political system which allowed for the tyranny of the majority would not be a truly 'democratic' system. If we take democracy to mean rule by the whole people then a majority decision means that the minorities in a society will effectively have no input and therefore this is not a true democracy. Majority rule can only be compliant in a democratic society if it does not compromise the major interests of the minorities. An essential element of a truly 'democratic' political system will, therefore, be the protection of individuals and minorities by the imposition and enforcement of restrictions on the powers of governments - and even of governments which genuinely reflect the views of a majority of the voters. In a true democracy, then, the rights of the minorities have to be protected - and this will normally require the existence of a constitution which limits the power of government and which can be and is enforced by a judiciary which is independent of government. ...read more.

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