Ten (10) pillars of democracy: The society comprises government systems that many people practice. These systems are not dependent on each other, and the attributes or characterizations make them different.
We shall be focusing on democracy as a system of government. It is the most popular one, having been practiced by a more significant percentage of the world and being a system of government that exists alongside other systems of government.
To help understand this system, we will give a brief explanation of democracy in this article. For some people who believe that the system lacks what it takes to benefit any society that practices it, we shall be enumerating the advantages of this system of government.
Finally, some people would like to know what constitutes democracy and the basics upon which this system of government stands. This is an essential aspect of the discussion, and so we shall elaborate on the pillars of this system of government extensively.
Therefore, it is essential that for you to have ample knowledge of this system of government, you should take out few minutes of your time to go through this article as we unveil the aspects of democracy you may not be familiar with.
What Is Democracy?
During the Gettysburg Address made by the renowned President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, at the end of the brutal American Civil War, he gave what has become a more publicized and simple definition of democracy.
He defined this system of government as the “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It is what is envisioned by this system of government – a government solely built on the decisions of the people.
It means that the power to make decisions and carry out any policy has to come from the people. Democracy can be done in two ways: the people can either vote on these policies before they can be implemented or elect representatives who make these decisions on their behalf. The latter is more widely practiced than the former.
Based on a global index in 2018, 99 countries practice democracy as their system of government. That is more than 50% of the countries in the world, making this the most popular system of government.
Pillars of Democracy
By pillars, we are talking about the foundation upon which this system of government stands. Just like a building would need a strong foundation and pillars for it to stand, this system of government would require the same type of foundation.
These foundations are the basis upon which democracy is built on. Without them, you cannot accurately describe the government as a democracy. Practicing them would ensure that the system of government grows from strength to strength.
1. The People
The foundation of any society is the people. Picture a scenario where the human population ceases to exist; you would understand that this makes the world less of what it is now.
In that same vein, many structures and institutions need human existence to flourish. The absence of human existence or population puts it where the institution ceases to exist or finds it hard to achieve its goal.
Under democracy, it needs the existence of people but for other reasons aside from the mere fact that the human population signals the presence of the system of government.
The people are the fundamental source of this system of government, as seen from the definition by Abraham Lincoln. It is because this system gets its power from the people. Unlike other systems of government, democracy ensures that power is derived from the people for the benefit of the people.
This is why everything that involves a democratic setting must first and foremost begin with the acknowledgment of the people. The absence of a class or caste system is the true definition of this system of government; whenever a decision has to be reached, the people have to be involved.
2. Political parties
Variety is the spice of life. This system of government, as we earlier stated, involves two forms of decision-making: the first one is where the people vote before any policy is approved, and the second one is where they elect representatives who make these decisions for them.
The latter is widely practiced by most of the democratic countries in the world for several reasons, including but not limited to the fact that it helps with easy and fast decision-making.
Every eligible individual must be elected representative, and before this happens, they must stand for an election process under various political parties. This is the benefit of democracy as people have the right to choose, hence, why variety is the spice of life under this system.
The political parties ensure that they produce reputable candidates who would be competent to be elected into the representative position.
In other words, without political parties, candidates or potential elective persons cannot be selected and elected for the positions. These political parties have ideologies that would ensure that anyone who wants to be elected on its platform must be qualified based on these ideologies.
3. The constitution
One fundamental pillar among the pillars of democracy are the constitution’s presence. Every country that practices this system of government has a constitution.
The constitution is the body of laws and rules that guide human conduct within the society to which it applies. It includes the procedures to be undertaken by the government concerning matters that concern its business.
The constitution can be said to be either written or unwritten. Where it is written, we are not referring to the literal meaning of the word “written.” It simply means that the constitution is contained in a single document. Most democracies around the world practice this.
On the other hand, when it is unwritten, the constitution’s words are not contained in a single document. One can find this type of constitution in the United Kingdom.
The constitution, as a document, plays a vital role as one of the pillars of democracy. The source is the people for whom these laws are to be applied; every action by the government and individuals must be done following the constitution.
This protects the people against chaos and an authoritarian government that may want to carry out arbitrary actions without considering the constitution’s provisions.
4. Due process of the law
One of the pillars of democracy ensures that due process is involved in carrying out every action of the government and the individual.
Often issues may arise that would require immediate action or some form of action. This is not peculiar to only the government, as private individuals or organizations may be in this situation too.
During this time, we must make less haste, and prudence should be adhered to. However, mere preaching this would not be enough to compel people to stick to it. To ensure that this adheres, this system of government relies on this pillar.
The benefit of this pillar is that it ensures that actions are well scrutinized while it passes through the threshold of the law as it applies to the action or other laws that may be remotely applicable in this case.
In some cases, it could be called Redtapism as it involves going through various processes, offices, or channels before the law is approved. This may seem like time-wasting, but in some cases, it helps to reveal some things that may be wrong with this action
This pillar also ensures that people obey the law as it applies to getting an action approved or implemented, which checks arbitrary actions and promotes order in society.
5. Assurance of fundamental human rights
The assurance of human rights is arguably the essential pillar of democracy – the presence of human rights. Whenever we hear democracy, the first thing that comes to mind is the presence and acknowledgment of human rights.
Human rights are those rights that are incidental to our existence as human beings. These fundamental human rights may include the right to life, the right to freedom of movement, the right to freedom of expression, and so on.
As a system of government built on the foundation of the people, recognizing the rights of the people who are the source of this system of government should be approved.
The absence of these rights differentiates a democratic government from a non-democratic one. It is also its presence that makes this system of government more popular and acceptable than other systems of government.
For instance, in some countries, people are denied the right to expression or freedom of speech. It even worsens as they are not just rejected for these rights but severely punished.
In some other countries, elections are absent as the people are denied the right to choose who their leaders will be.
It is because the same person has been a leader for many years, whereas claiming the title of “President” signifies that the government is a democracy, whereas, in practice, it is far from it.
These violations make it more of a welcomed development when the idea of democracy is thrown out there to people who do not practice this system of government in the first place.
6. The Press
Information is power, and with that power comes the ability of people to know what is going on in their environment. It would also guide them in making decisions affecting themselves and society.
This system of government understands the importance of information and how it can help shape the public’s general perception. This is why it promotes the independence and non-interference of the press.
The press, which mainly includes news media outlets, social media platforms, and other means of information to the general public, allows people to know what is going on in their environment and elsewhere.
It is like the eyes and the voice of the people. As the eye, it lets the people see what is happening in their society and every other place, making it possible for them to access and understand these events or information to find out how it affects them and how they can utilize it to make their society better.
As the mouth of society, it is a medium through which the people call for change or direct the eyes of the government toward issues that bother them. Through the press, freedom of speech and expression can be carried out.
7. Transparent Electoral process
As we stated earlier, the people have the right to elect persons for representative purposes. To ensure that this happens, the electoral processes have to be followed.
One of the ten (10) pillars of democracy is to ensure that the process involved in bringing a leader into an elective and representative position is transparent and void of malpractice.
In Africa, the lack of transparency in elections has plagued the continent for decades. In some countries, people have lost so much fate in the electoral process that they could care less about who becomes elected because of how corrupt the system has become.
For a democratic government to indeed prove its worth, it must ensure that the electoral process is free of malpractice and purely transparent. The absence of this paints a picture of false democracy.
In countries where the electoral process has been rigged to ensure that the same person has been in power, like Cameroon, people would question whether or not such a country fits the status of democracy. While it may claim to be one, a true democracy assures one of a transparent electoral process system.
8. Rule of law
This is one of the most fundamental pillars of democracy. Aside from the assurance of human rights, one other core feature is the presence of the principle of the rule of law.
According to this principle, the law is supreme, and everyone is subject to the law. Everyone is below the law regardless of position, class or status, and physical attributes.
This entails that if the law prescribes punishment for action, no matter who the person may be, the such penalty must apply to the person. Also, where the law provides that a particular thing be done, everyone must do it irrespective of who they may be in the eyes of the public.
But, in the eyes of the law, as far as a democratic government is concerned, everyone is below it and whatever the law provides applies to every one of the citizens in such a society.
9. Presence of democratic institutions
One of the essential pillars of a democratic system of government is the presence of institutions that promote the existence and growth of democracy.
When you see these institutions, it is a clear indication of the initial presence of democracy in that society and assurance that the institutions would guide the continuous company of democracy.
These institutions include electoral institutions, civil societies, pressure groups, arms of governments, etc. These are the institutions that ensure that the rights of the people are protected and that the democratic system of government is kept alive.
Additionally, they help keep the government on its toes regarding protecting the rights of the people and ensuring their individual needs are met and issues about their existence as citizens are met.
10. The majority rule and the rights of minorities
In a democracy, one of the most famous slogans is “majority carries the vote.” This implies that when a vote is put up, the result is determined by which franchise gets the highest number of supports.
This process has been so enshrined in the democratic process that even in various gatherings, when issues arise, and people are torn between which side to support, they put this vote. The majority support is the opinion that would stand. This is a byproduct of democracy.
This majority rule helps guide decision-making, as people tend to make decisions based on the number of support given to a particular person or opinion.
If the majority of people support an idea, for instance, the right thing to do is to find out what makes it so popular and how it can affect the people generally, both those who support it and those who do not keep it.
This brings us to minority rights. These are the persons who did not support the popular vote. While human nature may be quick to direct that such persons be made to feel the grunt of their decision, this system of government ensures that such people would also share the benefit of the vote and ensure that no harm or prejudice comes their way a result of their decisions.
Advantages of Democracy
For a country that may not be practicing democracy, it would be challenging to sell them the idea of democracy being a sound system of government over and above their own. This is partly because everyone believes that their respective system of government is the best.
The United Nations, as a global organization, does not favor one system of government over the order for the sake of neutrality. However, they encourage this system of government for various reasons.
These reasons are the advantages of democracy which sets it aside and above every other system of government. These reasons will enable those not practicing democracy to see and understand why this system of government is better than what they are used to or practicing.
- This system provides a viable and better means of resolving disputes and conflicts through dialogues
- It also leads to the promotion of respect for human rights and dignity
- The freedom to act, speak and express oneself freely without any interference so long as this does not withhold others from doing the same
- It canvasses equality before the la
- It promotes security and a safe environment for its citizens
- Democracy is hinged on a transparent, good government that owes accountability to the people
- It entails having the power, as citizens, to hold elected representatives accountable for their actions and inactions
Having gone through this article on the ten (10) pillars of democracy, we hope you got the information you sought. We strongly believe that you fully appreciate the tenets of what a democratic government should have and what democracy means.
If you have comments or contributions, you can drop your opinion on the pillars of democracy in the comment box, and we will be glad to engage in the scholarly discourse with.