Democracy: Meaning, Types, Features & Characteristics
Meaning of Democracy
Democracy may be defined as a system of government in which the exercise of political power and authority is vested in the people through their elected representatives. It has also been defined as government by consent; while Abraham Lincoln has defined it as government of the people, by the people and for the people.
The concept of democracy originated from ancient Greece where all adult males gathered periodically to discuss the affairs of state.
Types of democracy
There are two types of democracy namely:
1. Direct democracy (Athenian): which refers to the system of government in which all the citizens gather at a particular venue for the purpose of governing and administering the state.
2. Indirect or representative democracy: This refers to the system in which the people elect representatives that take care of their interests in government.
Main features or characteristics of democracy
1. Periodic free and fair elections: These represent one of the major features of democracy. Here the citizenry are allowed to choose the people that would represent their interests in government. It Is also through elections that peaceful change of government is effected
2. Tolerance of opposition: Organised opposition is allowed in a democracy to express their views on government policies. Even though the majority have the final decision, minority views should be tolerated.
3. Popular consultation: A democratic government seeks the people’s opinion on its policies and programmes because they are the final beneficiaries of such programmes.
4. Accountability of the government to the people: The government is responsible, accountable and responsive to the people that voted them into power.
5 Rule of law: The constitution is the supreme law of the land in a democracy, and both the government and citizenry are subject to the laws of the country.
6. Political equality: Every citizen in a democratic government is accorded equal opportunity to vote and be voted for, provided they are duly qualified to participate in the political process.
7. Majority rule: Government decisions, policies and programmes are based on the desires of the majority.
8. Independent judiciary: In a democracy, the judiciary is free from the control of the other two organs of government; i.e. the decisions and pronouncements of the judiciary are not subject to either executive or legislative control.
9. Press freedom: The people have freedom to express their opinion on government through the press. Similarly, the press (in a democracy) is free to investigate and criticise government policies.
10. Existence of multi-party system: The principle of democracy gives room for the emergence of various political parties which compete for political power, and, when in government, help to mobilise the electorate to support government policies.