Pillars of democracy: Man is inherently a social being. To survive we congregate to and co-operate to meet our daily needs. This constitutes a society. However a society is bound by rules to govern the intereactions of individuals and resolve clashes of interests that will inevitably occur. There are many systems of governing such as Oligarchy, Theocracy etc but none is as exalted and vaunted as Democracy.
In the 5th Century BC Athens pioneered a form of Direct Democracy. Citizens of Athens who were male, freeborn sons of Athens and over 18 came together do discuss and debate over matters important to the state. Though this social experiment would not be seen again over 2000, it was revived in the early 19th Century by revolutions against Monarchy. Democracy practiced today is known as indirect democracy. It is a process by which reoresentatives are elected by the majority to reoresent their interest.
Abraham Lincoln popularly defined Democracy as government by the people, for the people and of the people. Democracy has major features which are crucial in separating it from other systems of governments which are also called pillars.. We will be taking a look at these features to discuss.
Essential Pillars of democracy
One of the major characteristics of a democratic dispensation is a constitution. What is a constitution? In simple terms it is a guideline containing the rules and procedure by which a government perform its functions. A constitution is what gives legitimacy to any government. It is the foundation upon which the authority of a government is wielded.
Without the backing of the constitution any action taken by the government is deemed illegal. This is why in any military takeover the first casualty is the constitution. The Constitution would usually be suspended and laws would be promulgated through a instrument known as decree.
A constitution can be rigid or flexible depending on the system of government. Flexible constitution is easily amendable is is not found in a codified form. There are various laws passed by parliament as the need arises. This type of constitution is suitable for the Parliamentary system of government which allows their laws to be easily amended. Countries that use Flexible constitution includes UK, Italy, Japan etc
The rigid constitution is found in a codified form with all the laws bound together. This system is termd Rigid is because there are complex procedures to pass through before the constitution can be amended. These procedures are laid down in the constitutions itself. A good example would be the 1999 constitution which is the current constitution utilised by Nigeria as well as USA, South Africa etc.
2. Free and Fair Elections
Election is defined by Collins Dictionary as a process in which people vote to choose a person or group of people to hold electoral positions. This is a major feature of democracy, because it emphasizes the freedom to elect the representative that prioritize their interests.
Free and Fair Elections cannot be overemphasized. A free and fair election grants stability to the electoral process and confidence to the voters. It allows the candidates to hit the ground running and acts as a check on the power of the officials.
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3. Check and Balances
Democracy emphasizes checks and balancee that no branch of government would hold more power than the other to prevent excesses. There is a saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This makes a tripartite system where each branch is held accountantby the other branch.
For instance the executive has the power to veto bills that it feels are important, the legislature has the power of impeachment to keep the executive innplace and the Judiciary has the power to review laws made by the Legislature and can declare them illegal if they go against the constitution or laid down procedures.
4. Rule of Law
In every democratic dispensation there is an emphasis on the rules of law. Rule of law by AV Dicey postulates that everyone is equal before the law. The law takes full priority over any other interests. This the greatest protectiom of the common man.
5. Human Rights
Human Rights are thkse basic and indispensable features available to us as Human. It is enshrined in the constitution. They are available to everybody by virtue of being a human. In Nigeria our Human Rights are enshrined in the 1999 constitution s(33-43).
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What do u think? Do you think there are some pillars of democracy more important out there? Leave a comment below.