DEVELOPMENT AND DEMOCRACY
5.1 Defining the Concept of Democracy
“Democracy means the organization of society for the benefit and at the expense of everybody indiscriminately and not for the benefit of a privileged class.”
George Bernard Shaw.
The concept of "democracy" is contestable. It is understood by many people to mean a form of government in which a significant portion of the governed society has a franchise to elect members of the governing body. Other observers would argue that a "true" democracy is a system of government that embraces a universal adult franchise. While we may not agree on one uniform definition ,there are certain universal attributes of a democratic society namely:
• Equality of all citizens before the law without regard for race, ethnicity, religion,region, gender, or any other social or biological differences;
• The supremacy of the rule of law;
• Full participation of people in how they are governed;
• The principle of separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary;
• Freedom of expression, association, conscience and affiliated family of rights;
• Periodic elections as a means of choosing alternative ideas for public policy.
Any society that claims to be democratic must have all of these elements. Those that aspire to build a democratic society must have most of these elementary things in place or must be taking genuine steps towards their achievement. The popular understanding of the term "democracy" is that there are three basic forms: direct, representative and constitutional. . A brief outline of the historical development of each will provide a solid foundation of knowledge on which the concept of constitutional democracy can be further explored.
5.1.1. Direct democracy
This is a form of government in which the right to participate in making political decisions is exercised directly by all citizens, acting under procedures of majority rule. In large states, direct or participative democracy is not possible.
Debate continues as to the origins of democracy. However, the city-states of ancient Greece stand out as one of the earliest examples of codified and institutionalized democratic principles. The motivating force for the development of democratic political institutions in the Greek states was their desire to discover the best system of government that would maintain the liberty of the citizen. Their solution was a system in which the whole citizen body formed the legislature. All citizens had a voice and a presence in the formulation of the rules that governed their society. All citizens were eligible to hold executive and judicial offices, some were elected, while others were assigned by lot. In this early form of democracy, all officials were directly responsible to the popular assembly, which was qualified to act in executive, judicial and legislative matters.
It should be noted that Greek democracy, which may be epitomised as the expression of the interests of all citizens, rested on a society radically different from that which exists today. In the first place, the city-states were small enough to allow for direct participation in judicial and legislative affairs. Secondly, only male native-born Athenians were citizens and so were participants in this process. Slaves, women and foreigners, who together made up the majority of the population of any Greek city-state, were excluded. Thirdly, in ancient Greece, the notion that a citizen was in some way unique did not operate. Each citizen was part of a collective and public whole. Public life was significant and private life was not taken into account. Finally, the concept of citizenship carried with it military responsibility, either as a warrior or as a contributor of funds. This early version of democracy, now known and frequently referred as "classical democracy", was both flawed and vulnerable to manipulation.
5.1.2. Representative democracy
This involves the selection of government officials by the people being represented. The most common mechanisms involve election of the candidate with a majority or a plurality of the votes.
Representatives may be elected or become diplomatic representatives by a particular district (or constituency), or represent the entire electorate proportionally proportional systems, with some using a combination of the two. Some representative democracies also incorporate elements of direct democracy, such as referendums. A characteristic of representative democracy is that while the representatives are elected by the people to act in their interest, they retain the freedom to exercise their own judgment as how best to do so.
A. Parliamentary democracy Parliamentary democracy is a democracy where government is appointed by parliamentary representatives as opposed to a 'presidential rule' by decree dictatorship. Under a parliamentary democracy, government is exercised by delegation to an executive ministry and subject to ongoing review, checks and balances by the legislative parliament elected by the people.
B. Liberal democracy A Liberal democracy is a representative democracy in which the ability of the elected representatives to exercise decision-making power is subject to the rule of law, and usually moderated by a constitution that emphasizes the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals, and which places constraints on the leaders and on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities
5.1.3. Constitutional democracy
This is developed to counter this possibility and is a form of representative democracy in which the powers of the majority are enshrined in constitutional provisions designed to guarantee the individual and collective rights of all citizens. These citizenship rights are enshrined in a constitution and can be amended to reflect social change.
Industrialization came to be seen as not just the economic and technological changes that underpinned a growing prosperity, but to include the political and social changes that emerged as well. This led to the realization that, when the leaders of a state embraced economic progress via industrialization, they had to be prepared to accommodate the social and political change that accompanied it. The most perilous of those changes, from the perspective of the propertied classes, were the growth of individualism and the demand for political influence. To maintain stability in the state and to avoid the economically disruptive effects of civil unrest, it was necessary to devise political institutions that would prevent any individual or group from gaining control of the organizations of government. Peaceful political change is a significant strength of the modern constitutional democratic state.
What characterizes a constitutional democratic state? In the modern world, constitutional democracy is the chief type of non-autocratic government. A definition of a constitutional democracy is that it should provide:
1. a system of periodic elections with a free choice of candidates
2. competing political parties
3. universal adult suffrage
4. political decisions by majority vote
5. protection of minority rights
6. an independent judiciary
7. constitutional safeguards for basic civil liberties, and
8. the opportunity to change any aspect of the governmental system through agreed procedures.
In most modern constitutional democracies there is a constitutional document providing for fixed limitations on the exercise of power. A constitution assigns certain specified powers to different structures of governments by:
1. limiting the powers of each structure and the establishing arrangements for their co-operative interaction
2. specifying the individual rights or liberties of the individual that are protected against the exercise of state power
3. providing a statement of the methods by which the constitution may be amended.
The significance of political parties in the development of constitutional democracy is worth noting. A political party is an organization through which the electorate is involved in both the exercise and transfer of power. It is the presence of two or more political parties within a democratic structure that separates constitutional democracy from the pseudo-democratic structures found in single-party totalitarian states. Political parties in a constitutional democracy, on the other hand, are independent of the state. They are concerned with the integration and representation of many interests and beliefs, and, crucially, they are open to wide public participation. There is competition between parties to achieve government. Even if a party is too weak to form a government, it has the ability to influence government policies and legislation. Parties act as a means of representing all interests in the membership of the constitutional democracy and at the same time provide an efficient and peaceful means for the transfer of power in the state.
5.2 The Interaction between Democracy and Development
Democracy and development are complementary, and they reinforce each other. The link between them is all the stronger because it originates in the aspirations of individual and peoples and in the rights they enjoy. Indeed, history shows that cases where democracy and development have been dissociated it mostly resulted in failure. Conversely, the interlinking of democratization and development helps both of them to take root durably. For political democracy, in order to consolidate itself, needs to be complemented by economic and social measures that encourage development; similarly any development strategy needs to be ratified and reinforced by democratic participation in order to be implemented.
The interdependence of democracy, development and human rights was spelled out in the 1993 Vienna Declaration. Panel members pointed out that recognition of that interdependence of the right to democracy and the right to development is not something new. The United Nations Charter, international agreements, the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women all mention it. Bu,t the implementation of those rights, which have been endorsed by international law, entail both greater solidarity on the part of the international community and the respect by States of their international obligations. This section saw the rule of law or the primacy of law as the thread that can link the construction and consolidation of democracy to the construction and consolidation of development, as well as the way of consolidating their common bedrock: the respect of human right.
Democracy is the system in which “sovereign power lies with the people”, the methods with which it can be exercised can vary depending on the social system and economic development peculiar to each country. Those methods also tend to change depending on political, demographic, economic and social change. Democracy cannot be conceived of without freedom, but it also entails the rule of law and the voluntary restrictions that result from it, in other words the existence of a common rule issued by those who have been chosen by the people to define its content.
Justice guarantees the exercise of democracy as it serves to enforce the principle of equality before the law, the right of all individuals to express their opinion within the society to which they belong, and the right to be heard and to put their case. Democracy is, therefore, viable only if it has a reliable and independent judicial system. The free participation of citizens is a second precondition since it allows them to exercise their right to freedom of thought and to be different. It also enables civil society to express itself not only within each nation but also on the international scene — something which is becoming a necessity in an increasingly interdependent world.
As regards human rights, the dialectic relative to the universality of those rights and, by contrast with the distinctive features of social systems, the universality of the historical and cultural traditions and the economic contexts in which they are embodied, was the subject of lengthy debate. At the end of the debate, Panel members, nevertheless, reaffirmed their espousal of the terms of the 1993 Vienna Declaration, namely that “while the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be born in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
It is a fact that, if human rights are to be guaranteed and if democracy is to work, communities and individuals, both men and women, need not only to have access to justice but also, before that, to be aware of the law and to understand it. Similarly, the lack of justice directly compromises development, first because it encourages mismanagement and corruption, and second because it discourages investment and economic exchanges.
There can be no development in a context of arbitrariness or in the absence of the rule of law. In order to construct and to institutionalize, there needs to be a minimum degree of certainty: one needs to know what rule is applicable and how it is applied. It should be pointed out that the notion of the rule of law or the primacy of law has wider implications than the much more concrete notion of rule by the law, which refers to the authorities’ daily enforcement of existing laws, whether they good or bad, just or unjust. The rule of law, on the other hand, which is the contrary of arbitrariness, is based on the reign of the general principles of the law and on the concept of justice in society, hence its importance in relation to a democratic government.
That rule of law entails, for power to be exercised, legitimacy, transparency and accountability. Those three elements, which underpin the rule of law, are vital for both the democratic process and the process of development. But for that rule of law, which goes hand in hand with citizenship, to be able to establish itself within a society, a juridical culture needs to have grown up, and that is something which requires short, medium and long-term strategies to be prepared. For such a culture requires an apprenticeship, education and the ability to understand legislation. It implies that everyone knows how justice works. But that knowledge is possible only if access to justice is equal and if it is the same for everyone. Unequal access to justice, depending on the socio-economic group to which people belong, depending on their ethnic group or their sex, for example, is in contradiction with justice and the rule of law.
An enabling legal and regulatory framework is one in which laws and regulations are clear, transparent, and applied uniformly, and in a timely manner, by an objective and independent judiciary. Where legal systems are weak and the application of law is uncertain and/or enforcement is arbitrary, they tend to distort economic transactions, foster rent-seeking activities, and discourage private capital flows, all of which undermine national development. Where adherence to rule of law is weak, security of private property is also weak, and investment prospects are low.