Democracy has always been an issue under heated discussion. Being a form of government’s approach to people, democracy has many other features proving that it can be politically flexible.
Many dictionaries give different definitions to the term “democracy”. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English gives three definitions to the term “democracy”, one of them is: a situation or system in which everyone is equal and has the right to vote, make decisions (“democracy,” n.d.). Oxford English Dictionary says that democracy is fair and equal treatment of everyone in an organization, and their right to take part in making decisions (“democracy,” n.d.). The Webster’s Dictionary identifies it as a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections (“democracy,” n.d.). So, it may be concluded that generally it is a form of ruling a country, in which each citizen has a right to vote and to be elected.
The word “democracy” comes from one of the ancient languages – Greek. Basically, it means “to rule by people”. If to compare it to monarchies, aristocracies or dictatorships, the latter have such form of governing, where people are not allowed to comment on how to run the government or who is a good candidate to rule the country and the government. However, there is a vivid discrepancy between the meanings of democracy by the Greek and by the modern society. Athenian democracy in its classic representation was established on the concepts of full political assistance of every citizen, the dominance of the people, and equality under the law. On the other hand, contemporary democracy relies on elected authorities and has a tendency to set up a distinction between two spheres of social life: public and private. “Great Charter” of England of 1215 (Magna Carta) was the very first document that was on the verge of ruining the authority of the king and protected people from feudal injustice. Until the Enlightenment Age (17th – 18th centuries), there was nobody to define the term democracy accurately. At that time the Declaration of Independence in the US was penned, following by the Constitution. Democracy gave religious freedom and civil rights to people. That was the time when the vital clue of democracy was the separation of the state and the church.
Gaus and Kukathas (2004) have identified the democracy as a system of government by the whole population or all eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. Being “a government of the majority”, it is on the stage of being accepted in modern society. In this case, the standpoint of majority justifies “democratic actions”. If there is democracy, so the citizens are sovereign, this means that they are the highest form of constitutional authority. The heads of the government hold the power not for a long time, just temporarily and their power flows from the people. The rights of minorities are always protected in democratic countries. The inhabitants have rights to criticize the elected representatives. There is a common suffrage that is of paramount importance: every legally capable citizen has the right to vote, if he or she is over eighteen.
According to Diamond and Plattner (1996), there are four rules of a democratic country:
- A political system for choosing and substituting the government by fair elections.
- Protection of human rights.
- Participation of people in political life.
- A rule of law.
There are certain benefits of being a democratic country. Moses L.H. Tay in his book “End Time Scenario: The Picture Is Getting Clearer” claims that firstly, better standards of living are provided for people who live in democratic countries. In comparison with the citizens of any other country with authoritarian regime, inhabitants of democracies tend to savor their individual freedom, political unity and low risk of hunger, etc. The true feature of democracy is to have respect and appreciate rights of individuals. Secondly, democracy binds the governmental power. The opposition is allowed to express their views openly. So, the opponents do not have to be afraid of being violently repressed in case of political misunderstandings. Thirdly, democratic countries are economically stable. They tend to have a market economy, which is likely to produce fruitful and profitable economical outcomes and growth. Moreover, they always have a political validity that is of high importance at difficult times. Finally, citizens of democratic countries do not suffer from starvation, as stated above. The political leaders have a strong motivation not to let their people starve. As the free press works very fast, there is a reason to make everything stable and prevent people’s hesitation in authorities and their political strengths. For instance, in XX century, more than 25 million people were killed by hunger. As there was no transparency in governmental and political management, there was no chance to avoid the catastrophe.
However, there are countries that incorporate different forms of government. For instance, the UK is a unique type of democracy that has an unelected Head of the State Queen Elizabeth II. After her death, Prince Charles will take her place. The form of government in England is a constitutional monarchy. It combines a parliamentary system with monarch head of state. Officially, the Queen is the head of state, although in practice, she has not much political influence. She has an avalanche of titular roles. The Prime Minister and the Parliament have the most power in England. Such kind of ruling the country is observed only in England.
Speaking about democratic features of the monarchy (the UK is meant), every elections are held clearly and fairly. In contrast, Mexico has been a totally non-democratic country for a long period of time. According to some assumptions, there was the same scenario as in the Pakistan in 90's, but with some differences. The citizens did go to the elections and voted for their representatives, but the votes themselves were not adequate. The other candidates were threatened, beaten up or even kidnapped. Moreover, they had no allowance to contest, except for those of one party. Making a comparison between Mexico and the United Kingdom, one may see what accurate elections are. This makes the British system the Democracy.
The elections in the United Kingdom are held in a special way. Discussing the types of elections in the UK, firstly, six of them should be mentioned:
- General elections in the country
- Elections to the European Parliament
- Local elections
- Elections to devolved parliaments and assemblies
- Mayoral elections
- Police and Crime Commissioner Elections
Basically, in all constituencies the British elections are held on Thursday, which is meant to be the Election Day. General elections do not have specific fixed dates, unlike other types of elections. The Prime Minister can appoint the election’s date himself/herself. The voting stations are open from 7 am till 9 pm. Each citizen has only one vote. If he or she knows that there will be no opportunity to go to the polls (because of disease or any other circumstances), he or she can apply in advance to have a permission to send the vote by post.
However, voting is not obligatory. In fall of each year, householders must enter the name of every citizen who is supposed to go to the polls. One can vote at special stations corresponding to one’s address. For each seat, there are more than two candidates. The one who has more votes wins. A candidate might have only 9% of votes. Even if it is more than each of his or her “combatants” gets solely, he or she is elected, though 91% of voters do not support him or her and the party. This is called the majority electoral system. There is also an absolute majority system, which seems to be more democratic. This is when a candidate can be elected if he or she has at least 50% of votes.
According to Democratic Audit UK (2014), there are many views on the peculiarity of the English form of government. It is said that the UK denies the fact of appointing and substitution of the government through clean and fair elections. The point is that the UK does have a Queen, but in fact, it does not have a meaning of “controlling” the country. She is the head of the nation, but she does not rule the government. The abovementioned House of Commons has its own representatives, which have been elected in a fair way. They have a function of making a decision concerning the managing of the government.
Being a unitary democracy, but ruled according to the scheme of a monarchy, the UK is a state where the Monarch is the ruler and the Prime Minister is the head of the government. Her Majesty’s Government is the representative of the executive power. The legislative power is divided into two chambers: the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Some people find the monarchy in the United Kingdom rather symbolic and even favorable. However, others see no symbolic points here. Lawrence (2015) says that the monarchy in Great Britain has become the synonym of injustice and has been promoting ideological validity and class division. The monarch’s presence in Great Britain, the one of the most influential states, is viewed as a contradictory to democratic maturity. On the other hand, literary the Crown has nothing to utter when the Parliament submits the bills.
According to Democratic Audit UK (2014), The Royal Blood goes on because the British people appreciate the convention of their continuum and want to preserve this tradition at least for now. In reality, the Crown is viewed as a matter of procedure. It can bring no crucial innovation to the country. The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is sovereign: it is above the highest court in hierarchy. Though many countries from the EU stand for the system called the Constitutional Monarchy, which is a kind of more democratic one as there are ideas of freedom, equality and Justice prevailing in the society.
Comparing to other developed countries and taking into account the United States of America, there is a vital difference between two governmental forms (American and English ones) – in America, the President is “an individual body”. It does not matter, to which political party he is bound. Like every parliamentary system, England’s system is a party system. Talking about the English form of ruling the country, it is worth mentioning that the Parliament is a legislative body that has power to offer new draft laws. The House of Commons and the House of Lords are two houses in the English governmental form. People elect the House of Commons, but the members of the House of Lords are assigned by the Queen. The House of Commons approves bills and other documents.
Trueman (2015) has found the following: the existence of the universal suffrage is an essential part of a democratic country (both the USA and the UK are meant in this case). The universal suffrage claims that every person (male or female) is given the right to vote, if he or she is over eighteen. Both countries are accountable to their inhabitants and this fact probably makes them democratic. In fact, paying attention to secondary elements, the US is more democratic to some extent. America has settled elections’ dates (every two, four or six years). Nobody can change the dates. November is the month for the candidates to be elected and January – to be inaugurated. It differs from the UK, where the PM has the right to choose the date, as mentioned earlier, – him- or herself (every five years).
Such character of elections means that the US is more democratic to some extent, as their politicians are more accountable, and cannot change their fate. America’s democratic petitions and requirements are assisted by the scrupulous separation of powers designated in the Constitution. The Congress, the Executive, and the Judiciary are closely linked with each other, but they have no power over each other and cannot be directly influenced. Such state of affairs gives a guarantee to the citizens that a President cannot form a dictatorship (just for instance), as the system is clear and protects a democracy. Whereas in the UK, the legislative and the executive powers are inevitably tied up, taking into account the fact that the PM is a Member of the Parliament, like the other Ministers. Potentially, the Executive might influence the Parliament.
In both countries, the Electoral College system disfigures popular opinion. In the US, the candidate who has obtained the majority of votes wins, even if the difference is minimum: 50.5% to 49.5%. In this respect, the results do not genuinely represent public opinion. In the UK, the First Past the Post system disfigures public opinion, taking as an example elections in 2005, where the Conservatives received fewer seats than Labor, although they won more votes.
All over the world, Britain is called the mother of democracy, and America is claimed to be the greatest democracy. Yet, looking attentively at the form of the government in both of the countries, there can be found lots of invisible from the first sight details that not always reflect democratic values. For instance, it is said that the money rules the world. If you are not wealthy, it is almost impossible to break into politics, and even if you are wealthy, the party system makes it more severe. The democracy is not always democratic.
To sum up, there is no ideal governmental form of ruling a country. Yet, democracy is trying to be such form, including the key points of building a society for people, protecting the civil rights of citizens and giving them a chance to be a part of the government.