1. Kopecek_What is democracy
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What is Democracy? Lubomir Kopecek November 2011
Greek word démokratiá = démos – the people and kratein – to govern
Development of Democracy (Robert Dahl)
1st STAGE: small and homogeneous city-states – Direct Democracy.
Greek ‚polis‘ – participation of citizens (free adult male citizens) at the meetings of popular assembly (5th century A.D.) – the people could make directly decisions. Florence, Genoa, Venice (Italy), 12th, 13th, 14th century, also in other small communities around Europe. Direct democracy = in fully form is possible in small states (districts) with small number of participants!
Development of Democracy 2nd STAGE: some European nation-states (since 18th and mainly 19th century). Direct form of democracy replaced by the representative form of governance – representative democracy. The large size of these new democracies (USA, Great Britain, France, Netherlands etc.). The growing number of citizens involved.
The principle of representation: Citizens do not exercise power directly, but through their elected representatives. (deputies, presidents etc).
Instruments of direct democracy in contemporary representative democracies
The most common: referendum - citizens decide on a question(s) by either accepting it or rejecting it through a direct vote (typical possible answer: Yes or No).
Referendums: types - mandatory (it must be held on a particular question) or facultative (it can be called at the request of a certain number of citizens), national and local.
Two important backgrounds of representative (liberal) democracy: Political equality = democratic background: extension of voting rights, establishment of general and equal voting rights. Liberal freedoms = liberal background: civic and political rights (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association etc.).
Procedural Democracy (important for democratic background of liberal democracy)
Joseph A. Schumpeter´s definition of democracy has become known as procedural democracy (or minimal democracy, electoral democracy).
Basic criteria: free competition among political parties (the citizen/voter must be able to freely chose between at least two political parties).
Citizens have the chance to elect the government in free elections. Free elections as the fundament of the democracy.
The fundamental element is the holding of regular elections in which political parties offer a certain program (existence of political market).
Political parties compete under equal conditions for the votes of the citizens.
The winner of elections exercises power and is given the opportunity to realize his program.
Key elements of procedural democracy: free elections, political competition, and political parties.
Liberalism is based on the idea that the government must protect the freedoms of the citizens (right to live, private property, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, fair trial, etc.): protection of freedoms is connected with rule of law.
Adam Smith later elaborated on the idea of economic freedom and the free market as indispensable for the functioning of a free society.
Charles Louis Montesquieu brought another aspect – separation of powers (executive, legislative and judiciary).
Executive power: Government (cabinet) and President (or monarch).
Legislative power: (Parliament) - making the laws.
Representative (liberal) democracy can be divided into two basic categories : parliamentary and presidential democracy.
Executive power (prime minister, cabinet) is derived from legislative power. The government is responsible to the legislative power and is dependent upon it. Parliament represents the sovereignty of the people - gains legitimacy through the electoral process. Executive power is headed by prime minister (premier). Head of state: president is elected by the parliament, or monarch (traditional authority). President or monarch has symbolic and limited role: represents the state outside, moderate political crises etc. Example: Great Britain, Netherlands, Czech Republic…
Legislative power and executive power are strictly separated, and independent of one another. Sovereignty of people is represented both by the legislative power and the executive (president). Parliament and president are elected by the people, and has an independent mandate. The head of state (president) govern the executive branch, and therefore the government. President has much greater power than in parliamentary democracies („strong man“). Example: The United States
In semi-presidential democracies there is a division of executive power between the president and the prime minister. President is elected by th people. Both the prime minister and the president are formally independent of one another. President has strong powers. The result of parliamentary elections is very important: victory of party (or party coalition) of president means strong support of president. Example: France
The consotional democracy
Consotional democracies: a special group among the parliamentary democracies.
The consotional model has proven itself as a way to maintain democracy in countries sharply divided along religious, ethnic, cultural, or other lines – many conflicts, risk of civic war etc.
What is necessary is a willingness by the elites of the individual social groups to maintain a consensus pacts, agreements etc.
Transition to democracy
Since mid 1970s – increase transition of countries towards democracy in the world (Third wave of democratization):
Europe: dictatorship fell in Spain, Greece and Portugal Latin America: Argentina, Chile, Brazil etc. Asia: Turkey, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan etc. Late 1980s – Central and Eastern Europe (countries that were previously in the sphere of the Soviet influence).
Transition and consolidation Democratic transition: change from the original non-democratic regime: removal of the old non-democratic regime; establishment of the democratic institutions and procedures. Democratic consolidation: stabilization of these democratic institutions and procedures + their acceptance by all important actors (political parties, army, religious leaders etc.) Democratic transition does not have to lead to the democratic consolidation (may result in new non-democratic regime or hybrid forms of regime).
Hybrid regimes: frequent mainly in 1990s Regimes that are neither liberal democracies, nor can be considered non-democratic regimes. Concept of Illiberal democracy (Fareed Zakaria): Use of some mechanisms of democratic governance, including formal legitimization of governmental elites through elections; Elections: electoral manipulation, fraud, repression of opposition candidates, etc. – only partially competitive elections. Weak rule of law, no chance to achieve justice. Centralization of power. Personality of leader is important, holds regime together. Today, hybrid regimes are rare: former hybrid regimes moved to procedural or liberal democracy (Slovakia, Croatia, Argentina) or to new dictatorship (Russia).
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