By Dr. Rajkumar Singh
In its larger sphere democracy is not a way of governing whether by majority or otherwise, but primarily a way of determining who shall govern and, broadly, to what ends. The only way in which the people, all the people, can determine who shall govern is by referring the question to public opinion and accepting on each occasion the verdict of the polls. The growth of democracy has always been associated with the free discussion of political issues, with the right to differ concerning them and with the settlement of difference, not by force majeure but by resort to the counting of votes. The right to differ did not end with the victory of the majority but was inherent in the system.
It establishes a new and more integral relationship between community and state.
Elements and forms of democracy:
Apart from a specific form of government, the perfect form of democracy also refers to situations and systems. When a person lives in a genuine democracy, he knows it, feels it, and breathes it.
A basic principle of democracy is a full recognition of the dignity and worth of the individual. Man’s dignity, in the democratic view, is not something conferred on him or legislated into existence. It is part of his birth right as a human being. In a true democracy, money, machines, and systems are important only as they contribute to man’s welfare.
But in the large states of modern day we cannot hope a democratic form of government to be the government “by” the people in the literal sense of the term. With the growing authority of some assembly of the people or of the people’s representative, such as the Greek ecclesia, the Roman comitia, the English Parliament, development of representative institutions began to take a definite shape. Modern Parliament is a representative body through which the democratic ideals are hoped to be served. It is a means rather than an end in itself. Its aim is to achieve the ideals of a mature political society. Earlier the struggle for the attainment of democratic institutions has taken forms as various as the conditions it encountered.
The eighteenth century, in particular, popularized three ideas. English experience led to the belief that Parliament is the parent of civil society.
The American Revolution made popular the notion that a discontented people have the right to cashier its governors.
The French Revolution established the principle that autocracy is the necessary parent of special privilege. All these necessarily increased the rate of progress towards democratic institutions.
When in later years representative system was criticized as leaving the members of Parliament the master of the electorate between elections, constitutions began to embody the initiative, the referendum and the recall as the necessary safeguards in a democratic state.
Different views on democracy:
Among political thinkers in ancient and medieval times, marsiglio of Padua with the experience of Italian cities in his mind, William of Ockham and Thomas Aquinas’ insistence on an elective monarchy played a very positive role in consolidating the concept of representation.
Though ecclesiastical in origin the notion was based on the famous Phrase Quod omnes tangit, ab omnibus approbetur’ which showed a sense that the exclusion of an interest may make the representation of a body imperfect. The idea of representation was of seminal importance because it gave those excluded from a share in the organs of government the opportunity of grievance.
The cause of representation was further championed by John Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau who sounded a deeper note and denied the legitimacy of all government in which the general will of all the people was not the effective lawmaking power.
Keeping in view the large number of population, the fact emerged that decisions cannot be taken without government by parties. “Party organization,” as Bagehot said, “is the vital principle of representative government.”5 Without the party system in some form it is impossible to get that concentration of voters for decision which is essential with electorates of the modern size. But parties, inevitable as they are, have brought with them a host of complex problems. The method of choosing candidates, the proper size of a constituency, the prevention of corruption, the exact powers which an elected member should exert, the representation of minorities are only the outstanding issues for which suitable machinery need to be devised. In order to achieve a functional society in effective terms the new democratic theory calls for a thorough overhauling of existing institutions, particularly on the political side.
Globalization and its Effects
In this age of globalization the process of politicization and mobilization has been intensified and the continuous ongoing process has sometimes taken the form of popular agitations posing a challenge for democratic values and governance have been difficult to reconcile in a country where socio-economic relativities can be altered only through political mobilization. A polity devises through painful experiences and sometimes through joyful energy, an operative work culture commensurate with the state’s objective interests and designed to deepen its legitimacy.
The emergent political culture is a sum total of preferred habits, style, values, and predilections for dialogue, conversations, contesting through disputes, disagreements, and conflicts.
The decline of political culture began to appear in the mid-1970s and continued unabated one after another which led a structural crisis, and the result was the 1991 makeover to a market economy.
The departure from the ‘care for the public commandment to market magic’ instigated fundamental changes in the polity’s architecture : decline of a pan-Indian party, rise of the regional parties, the strong culture making way for a cooperative federalism, the resuscitation of constitutional institutions-Presidency, judiciary, media, election commission, etc. In the circumstances it became difficult to mobilise democracy’s energy, emotions, ideas, imagination, and passions in pursuit of national goals,. Now the governing classes owe it to themselves to attend the task of re-energizing the political culture.
The task is urgent because of the polity’s grand paradox on the one hand mass democratic movements have run out of steam and stamina, and on the other, those groups that believe in violence have placed themselves beyond the reach of the state in large parts of the country.
At present related to the whole issue is the concept of governance which is neither new nor static. Governance is the process of decision making and implementation of those decisions, governance focuses on the actors who make decisions and the structures that are involved in decision making. Governance clearly refers to political accountability, transparency in government procedures and openness in government transactions and rule of law. It is associated with effective, efficient and responsive administration in a democratic framework.
Participation by civil society, together with information disclosure and transparency can help in monitoring policy decisions and implementing accountability of public authority resulting in good governance. (Courtesy: Kabul Times)