1.1 - Democracy
Forms of Democracy
Direct Democracy – This is where the power to make decisions lies with the people. The earliest accepted form of this democracy was in Ancient Greece whereby the people (although only the Men) would gather, listen to speeches from leading citizens and then vote upon the issue. The majority vote was accepted. Clearly however, this form of democracy is not applicable with today’s society as many more decisions must be made and the voting population is much larger. This does not mean, however, that Direct Democracy is not possible and in many countries it is used in the form of REFERENDUMS. Switzerland for example has had more than 550 referendums since 1848.
**The arguments FOR and AGAINST Direct Democracy are relatively interchangeable with those For and Against Referendums
Representative Democracy – The Representative system of Democracy evolved when it was realized that it was not feasible for so many people to meet to vote on issues at regular intervals. Political Philosophers also noted that most of the voters where illiterate and ill-educated and incapable of making an informed decision on matters of importance. There was also fear that the views of the minorities would be swamped out by the masses. The solution was to allow the people to vote on a Representative to take their views and get them represented in Parliament. This had the additional plus that the people who stood for election were, in general, better informed about political issues than the common Man. This system is used currently in the UK. The country is split into 650 different constituencies (soon to be 600) and each constituency elects one MP in a ballot during an election. The winning MP is sent to Parliament to represent the people who live in his constituency during voting on issues etc, etc.
A Liberal Democracy – This is not so much a type of democracy but instead is used to ‘rate’ democracies. A Liberal Democracy is one where the Government is; held accountable to its decisions (Iraq), there are free and fair elections (all citizens over 18 have the right to vote and there is an independent electoral commission who ensure they are fair), there is a peaceful transfer of power if a government has to hand power over (no violence recorded), information is freely available to the citizens (free press and free publishing), the rights and liberties of citizens are recognized and protected (EU convention on Human Rights), a variety of beliefs, opinions and lifestyles are tolerated providing they do not threaten the state and the powers of the government are controlled and limited by either law, elected institutions or both (in 2005 parliament denied the government’s request to be able to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without trial). The UK falls into this bracket, as do most western democracies.
A Referendum is “A popular vote where the people are asked to determine an important political or constitutional issue directly”. Referendums may be held for a whole variety of reasons such as: The inability of a Government to decide on an issue: 1975, Labour asked “Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community”. 67% voted YES. To ensure the affected people consent to the law: 1998 vote to approve a London Mayor. 72% voted YES. To resolve issues between parties/factions: 2010 AV Vote sorted the argument between the pro-reform Lib Dems and Anti-reform Conservatives. A referendum entrenches the law, preventing it from being attacked by future governments: e.g. It would now be very hard for the Government to remove the Scottish Parliament without another Referendum as the Scotts voted in favor.
A summary of the arguments for and against Referendums.
Arguments for: They are one of the most direct forms of democracy which are available in modern society. People are more likely to respect and follow decisions if they have been made by the