Democracy in The Contemporary World

Two Tales of Democracy :

Chile –

Salvador Allende Was president of Chlle, a South American country. He was pro-poor and workers. He was opposed from rich, landlords. Even America was unhappy with him

There was military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet, in which Allende was killed. Pinochet rules Chile for almost 18 years in autocratic style. Finally democracy returned to Chile when Michelle Bachelet was elected as President.

Poland –

Poland was ruled by Polish United workers Party, a non democratic communist government. Some workers led by Lech Walesa went on strike for their just demands. Initially government negotiated but later the ruler General Jeruzelesky imposed martial law in the country. He was backed by Soviet Russia.

Polish people continued their struggle and finally Lech Walesa was elected democratically as the President of Poland.


Two Features of Democracy

  • Democracy, hence, is a form of government that allows people to choose their own leaders.
  • People have the freedom to express their views, freedom to organize and freedom to protest against injustice.
  • The March of Democracy has met with setbacks and successes throughout history.
  • In 1900 there were only a few democratic states. After the Second World War, in 1950, more countries were added. The newly independent nations of Asia chose democracy. In 1975 colonies in Africa had become independent and most of them chose democracy as a form of government. A giant leap was taken in 1991. The fall of the Soviet Union created 15 new states and more democracies.

Phases in the Expansion of Democracy

  • By 2005, 140 countries have held multi-party elections. More than 80 countries have made advances towards democracy since 1980.
  • Stills there are many countries where people cannot elect their leaders. In Myanmar the elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been imprisoned by the military rulers (1990). No amount of international support has helped in her release.
  • After second world war many colonial nations were freed and most of them adopted democratic style of government.
  • Some of the democratic experiments were not successful.

Democracy at Global Level

  • Is it possible to have democracy at global level? Not at present.
  • The UN, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are global associations of the world. They attempt to maintain peace and security among the countries of the world. They give loans and money to governments.
  • They are not fully democratic. Five countries — US, UK, France, China and Russia — have the veto power in the Security Council.
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF) is controlled by wealthy ten nations and President of world bank has been always an American. This is against democratic principles.

Promotion of Democracy

  • Many powerful countries like the United States of America believe that democracy should be promoted in the world — even by force.
  • Powerful countries have launched attacks on non-democratic countries.
  • Iraq is the biggest example. USA and its allies attacked and occupied Iraq without UN sanction, on the pretext of Iraq possessing nuclear weapons. They have even held forced elections.
  • The urge for democracy should come from the people and should not be imposed.


What is Democracy Why Democracy


1. Democracy is a form of government in which the rulers are elected by the people.

  • Myanmar where the army rules, Dictator Pinochet’s rule in Chile, or President N.krumah’s rule in Ghana was not democratic. They were not chosen by the people.
  • Hereditary kings, like the king of Nepal or Saudi Arabia, are also not democratic rulers.They rule because they were born into noble families.

2. In a democracy final decision making power must rest with those elected by the people.

  • In Pakistan, President Musharraf has the power to dismiss national and state assemblies;so the final powers rest with the army and the General himself. We cannot call it a democracy.

3. A democracy must be based on a free and fair election where those currently in power have a fair chance of losing.

  • In China, elections are held for its Parliament. But all the candidates are either members of Chinese Communist Party or eight smaller allies of the party.
  • In Mexico, elections have been held every six years since 1980. But the same party, PRI, has won the elections. Obviously, there has been rigging and mal-practices, with freedom, denied to opposition.
  • In both the examples elections are held but one can not claim that they are free and fair.

4. In a democracy, people’s will is ascertained by each adult citizen having one vote and each vote has one value. Democracy is based on the fundamental principle of political equality.

  • Countries like Saudi Arabia, Estonia and Fiji in some or other way deny voting rights to certain sections of its population.

5. A democratic government rules within limits set by constitutional and citizens’ rights.

  • A democratic government cannot do what it likes after winning the elections. It has to respect certain basic rules and is accountable not only to the people but also to other independent officials.
  • Robert Mugabe is President of Zimbabwe. He is ruling there for last 38 years. But in many incidences, he has behaved in an undemocratic way and even above the law.



Points Against

There has been criticism of democracy by various people. The charges are that :

  • It creates instability by changing its leaders frequently.
  • Democracy is about power play and political competition. There is no scope for morality.
  • So many people have to be consulted before any issue is solved. It leads to delay.
  • Elected leaders do not know the best interest of the people.
  • It leads to corruption for it is based on electoral corruption.
  • Ordinary people do not know what is good for them, so decision making should not be left to them.

Arguments for Democracy:

  • Democratic government is a more accountable form of government.
  • Democracy improves the quality of decision making.
  • Democracy provides a method to deal with differences and conflicts.
  • Democracy enhances the dignity of citizens.
  • It allows us to correct its own mistakes.

Broader meaning of Democracy :

Democratic ideas can be practised in various decision-making processes. In broader sense no country can be completely democratic, The features of democracy are only minimum conditions. A lot can be done towards achieving real democracy


Constitutional Design

Democratic Constitution in South Africa

  • Nelson Mandela, the South African leader of African National Congress, fought a long battle against Apartheid.
  • Imprisoned for 28 years (1964–1992) emerged as the First President of the Republic of South-Africa.
  • People struggled against the horrible discrimination practised against them by the white minority rulers.
  • Apartheid finally defeated in 1994 and a new constitution made in 1996.
  • Black leaders appealed fellow blacks to forgive white.
  • Remarkable constitution, forgot past sufferings, sought co-operation of all the races which make S. Africa based on equality, democratic values and social justice.

Do We Need a Constitution?

  • Every country drafts its own constitution.
  • A constitution of a nation is the set of written laws accepted by people living together in a country.
  • It generates trust and co-ordination.
  • It specifies how a government should be constituted.
  • It lays down limits on the powers of the government.
  • It expresses the aspirations of the people about creating a good society.


Making of the Indian Constitution

  • The process began during the national struggle for freedom.
  • First draft 1928, then 1931. Moti lal Nehru and 8 leaders demanded in the draft : universal adult franchise, social justice, right to freedom and liberty.
  • Participation in Provincial Legislatures helped Indians in framing their constitution.
  • Leaders inspired by French Revolution, British parliamentary system and the Bill of Rights of the US.
  • They also learnt what the British were denying Indian citizens.

The Constituent Assembly

  • Elections to the Constituent Assembly held in July 1946.
  • Dr. B. R. Ambedkar appointed chairman of the drafting committee.
  • Constitution adopted on 26 November 1949, and enacted on 26 January, 1950, when India became a republic.
  • The Constitution reflects the best minds of the country. Its members represented mini-India.

Every law was debated clause by clause and a consensus arrived at.

It is the longest written constitution.


Guiding Values of India Constitution

The leaders like M.Gahatma Gandhi, Dr. Ambedkar, and Jawahrlal Nehru put forward their views about dream and promise the constitution makes for the nation.

The preamble of the constitution speaks about the philosophy on which entire constitution has been built.It is the soul of Indian Constitution.

Following are the values mentioned in preamble.

Sovereignty, Socialism, Secularism, Democratic and republic nature of India, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity

How is a Major Policy Decision Taken

Working of Institutions

Major Policy Decision

  • Government of India appointed a Commission in 1979, headed by B.P. Mandal, called Second Backward Commission.
  • Commission gave a report in 1980. One of the suggestions was to reserve 27 percent of government jobs for Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC).
  • This issue was discussed this for many years.
  • Janata Dal won elections in 1989. V.P. Singh, the Prime Minister, decided to implement reservations.
  • The President announced it in his address to the Parliament.
  • On 6 August 1990, the Cabinet decided to implement and the Prime Minister announced it in both Houses of Parliament.
  • The senior officers drafted an order, signed by an officer and it became the Memorandum issued on 13 August 1990.
  • There was a heated debate on the issue and it was finally taken to the Supreme Court. The case was known as “Indira Sawhney and others vs Union of India case.”
  • In 1992 Supreme Court declared the Mandal order as valid but asked for some modifications.

Need for Political Institutions

  • A government has to perform various duties, formulate policies and implement them.
  • Some have to formulate schemes, some have to take decisions, some have to implement the decisions.
  • Hence the need for institutions to do all the above.
  • The Constitution of a country lays down basic rules on powers and functions of each institution.
  • The prime minister and the cabinet take all policy decisions.
  • The civil servants take the steps to implement ministers decisions.
  • Supreme court solves disputes between citizen and government.
  • The institutions are the Legislative (Parliament), the Executive (the Government) and the Judiciary.


Parliament :

In all democracies , an assembly of elected representatives exercises supreme  political authority on the behalf of the people. At national level it is parliament and at state level it is legislative assembly.

  1. It is needed as final authority to make laws in the country.
  2. To exercise control over the workings of the government.
  3. To control the expenditure of the government,and control public money.
  4. As the highest forum of discussion and debate it decides public issues and national policies.

• Two Houses of Parliament. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The former has elected representatives and is the House of People.

•The Rajya Sabha elected by the elected members of each State Assembly is called the Council of States.

• Lok Sabha is more important in money matters, control over the executive and council of ministers., has more members. It is also called as lower chamber.

•Rajya Sabha is more important in matters concerning the states. It is called as upper chamber..

• Lok Sabha is elected for a period of five years. The Rajya Sabha is a permanent House, with one third members retiring every two years. The term of each member is for six years.

The President of India is part of the parliament although she is not a member of either house.


Political Executive

  • The President, the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers and the civil servants form the executive.
  • The Political Executive consists of political leaders elected by the people, who act on their behalf and are responsible to the public who elected them. They take all the decisions,understand the overall picture.
  • When we talk about the government, we usually mean the executive.
  • The second category is called the permanent executive consisting of civil servants. They help the political executive in carrying out the day to day work. They are experts but do not take the final decision.
  • Prime minister is the most important political institution in the country.
  • Prime Minister has three kind of ministers to help him :(i) Cabinet Ministers. It is the inner ring of the council of ministers.(ii) Ministers of State with independent charges.- Usually in charge of smaller ministries.(iii) Deputy Ministers.
  • The Prime Minister’s position is supreme. He chooses his Cabinet and his decision is final, except in a coalition government where he has to listen to other party members.
  • When the Prime Minister quits, the entire ministry quits.

The President is the nominal head in India. He is not directly elected by the people as in USA. The elected members of parliament (MP) and MLA s elect the President.

  • All the Members of Parliament and Members of the State Legislatures elect him. Since he is elected indirectly, he does not have the same powers as the Prime Minister.
  • The President exercises all his legislative, executive, financial, judicial, military powers only on the advice of the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers.
  • The President can only delay a bill. If the Parliament passes it again, he has to sign it.
  • President has the power to appoint the leaders when there is a coalition on his own discretion.
  • In countries like USA, France have powerful President ship.


The Judiciary: India has one of the most powerful judiciaries.

  • The Judiciary is independent of both the Executive and the Legislature.
  • The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers.
  • The other judges of the Supreme Court and the State High Courts are appointed in the same way but on the advice of the Chief Justice.
  • Once appointed, the Judges can be removed only by impeachment.
  • The Judiciary is the custodian of the Constitution, and the Supreme Court and the High Courts have the power to interpret the Constitution.
  • It can declare any law passed by the Legislature as invalid, if it violates the Constitution.
  • It safeguards the Fundamental Rights of the people of India, and checks malpractice and misuse of power by the Executive or the Legislature.



  • Elections are a democratic way of selecting representatives.
  • Democracy ensures the right choice of the people’s representatives at regular interval of time.
  • They ensure that the representatives rule as per the wishes of the people.
  • Elections help voters to choose representatives who will make laws for them, form the government and take major decisions.
  • The voters can choose the party whose policies will guide the government and lawmaking.
  • Thus election is a mechanism by which people can choose their representatives at regular intervals and change them if they wish to.


Our Election System 

  • First a voters list is compiled.
  • Then the election date is announced.
  • The country is divided into constituencies for purpose of elections.
  • There are separate constituencies for centre and state legislature.
  • The voters have to elect one representative for the Lok Sabha from each constituency (Lok Sabha has 543 constituencies), called Member of Parliament. The constituencies are formed on basis of population.
  • Similarly, each state is divided into constituencies and a specific number of members called Members of the Legislative Assembly are elected.
  • Sometimes the constituencies are called as seats.
  • The dates of General Elections are announced.
  • Each party declares its Manifesto and prepares a list of nominations.

Reserved Constituencies :

  • Constitution has a special system of reserved constituencies for the weaker sections.
  • Constituencies are kept reserved for scheduled castes (84) and scheduled tribes. (47)
  • At local and district level the reservation system is extended to other weaker sections like women and OBC.

Election Campaign :

  • Political parties try to focus public attention to bigger issues during election campaign.
  • In election campaign, the political parties have to agree for a model ‘code of conduct’.

Independent Election Commission :

In India, elections are conducted by an independent and very powerful Election commission.

In last few years voter are participating in election-related activities on a fairer scale.

In India, election outcome is accepted generally peaceful way as people’s verdict.

There are many challenges to free and fair elections


What makes an Election Democratic?

  • Some non-democratic nations also have elections but they are not real choices.
  • Everyone should be able to choose, i.e. everyone should have one vote and every vote should have equal value. Universal Adult Franchise.
  • There should be parties and candidates to choose from, freedom to contest and a wide choice for people.
  • Elections must be held at regular intervals.
  • Candidate preferred by the people should be elected.
  • Elections should be held in a fair and free atmosphere to be democratic.
  • These conditions are not followed m=in many so-called democratic nations.

Political Competition:


  • In the name of party politics, many unwanted practices are followed.
  • Creates a sense of disunity.
  • Parties level allegations against each other of using dirty tricks to win elections.
  • Long-term and sensible policies cannot be formulated.
  • Good people do not enter politics.

Merits :

  • Elections are good because they force the ruling party to perform. The government is aware that it will be voted out of power if it does not perform as the people expected.
  • It forces parties and leaders to perform, so competition is good.
  • Political competition may cause divisions and some ugliness, but it finally helps to force political parties and leaders to serve the people.

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