By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
- explain the principles of democracy.
- explain the features of a constitutional democratic system.
- identify between direct and representative democracy.
- state the differences between parliamentary and presidential democracy.
Why is a democratic system necessary?
- A democratic system creates the condition for political, economic and cultural equality.
- It upholds rule of law, human rights and freedom. These are necessary for individual and societal development.
- Above all, a democratic system upholds constitutionalism as a state ethos. This is so because constitutionalism is the lifeline of democracy.
1.1 Forms of Democracy
Democracy is practiced in two ways: direct and indirect.
- Direct Democracy
- Is the ancient form of democracy which still works among communities of a small size.
- Can be practiced in today’s world when a referendum is requested by political groups or a community.
- Requires the direct participation of all peoples of a given country in decision making and formulating laws
Referendum – is a general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to the people for the direct decision
- Indirect Democracy
- Is the modern form which is widely practiced in today’s world.
- It is also called representative democracy because people are involved in the political process through representatives they elect.
On the basis of the relationship between the three branches of government, a democratic system runs in three ways —Parliamentary, Presidential, and Combined Parliamentary and Presidential Democracy.
- Is led by a Prime Minister who is appointed from the winning party and has to be a Member of Parliament.
- The legislative and executive branches of government is combined, that is, members of the executive branch are also members of the legislative branch and exercises collective responsibility
- The Prime Minister leads the Executive Branch of government and at the same time is the member of the Legislative Branch.
- The Prime Minister is head of government and the President is head of state.
- The people elect their representatives and the Prime Minister is elected by the legislative body
- The mechanism of checks and balances between the three branches of government is weak or is not effective.
- Enacting laws is much easier when compared with Presidential Democracy.
- Head of state (the President) performs only ceremonial activity
Britain is a good example of Parliamentary Democracy.
- It is led by a President.
- The legislative and executive branches are separated, that is, members of the executive branch cannot be the legislative members
- The people choose their representatives and the President
- The President heads the Executive Branch and the representatives head the Legislative Branch of
- The branches of government function
- Checks and balances are implemented more effectively than in a Parliamentary Democracy.
- The president is head of state and head of government
- The Legislative and the Executive branches have the power to veto bills forwarded by the other. However, this leads to negotiation and compromise to pass the vetoed bills between the branches of
The United States of America is a good example of a Presidential Democracy. In USA, the President has the power to
- set the annual budget but this must be approved by the Parliament.
- nominate judges who need to be approved by
On the other hand, the Parliament has the right
- to formulate laws that must be implemented by the Executive, e., the President.
- Approve the appointment of judges and the allocation of budgets.
The Judiciary is entitled to interpret the constitutionality of these laws formulated by the Parliament and the acts of the Executive.
Moreover, although the President has the power to make treaties with other countries, if the Senate does not agree, then he has to change his action until it is approved. He can also refuse to sign a bill that has been passed by both houses (Senate and House of Representatives), but must explain why, before the bill is returned for a further vote in each house. A majority vote in both houses will ensure the bill becomes law, even if the President does not approve.
The Hybrid Democracy
- It is also called combined Parliamentary and Presidential
- The people, through a separate process, elect the President in this The members of the legislature are elected by another process.
- The Prime Minister, being a Member of Parliament, is elected from the winning party.
- The President is head of state with defined power and authority.
- The Prime Minister is head of government and works under close supervision of the President.
France exemplifies the hybrid system of democracy.
- Was he Author of Declaration of Independence
- Was the second President of the USA and known as one of the founding fathers of America’s democracy.
- Wrote the famous document called ‘Declaration of Independence’, a portion of which reads as follows:
- We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….
- Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
- Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government…