Promoting and upholding the principles of democracy

14Sep 2018
By Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Promoting and upholding the principles of democracy

IN 2007 the United Nations General Assembly resolved to observe 15 September as the International Day of Democracy—with the purpose of promoting and upholding the principles of democracy—and invited all member states and organizations to commemorate the day in an appropriate manner that contributes

To raising public awareness. The preamble of the resolution affirmed that: …while democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy and that democracy does not belong to any country or region... …democracy is a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of life.

Democracy may be a word familiar to most, but it is a concept still misunderstood and misused in a time when totalitarian regimes and military dictatorships alike have attempted to claim popular support by pinning democratic labels upon themselves.

Yet the power of the democratic idea has also evoked some of history's most profound and moving expressions of human will and intellect. In the dictionary definition, democracy is "government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system."

In the phrase of Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people.

" Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably, but the two are not synonymous. Democracy is indeed a set of ideas and principles about freedom, but it also consists of a set of practices and procedures that have been molded through a long, often tortuous history.

In short, democracy is the institutionalization of freedom. For this reason, it is possible to identify the time-tested fundamentals of constitutional government, human rights, and equality before the law that any society must possess to be properly called democratic.

Democracies fall into two basic categories, direct and representative.

In a direct democracy, all citizens, without the intermediary of elected or appointed officials, can participate in making public decisions. Today, the most common form of democracy, whether for a town of 50,000 or nations of 50 million, is representative democracy, in which citizens elect officials to make political decisions, formulate laws, and administer programmes for the public good.

In the name of the people, such officials can deliberate on complex public issues in a thoughtful and systematic manner that requires an investment of time and energy that is often impractical for the vast majority of private citizens.

How such officials are elected can vary enormously. On the national level, for example, legislators can be chosen from districts that each elect a single representative.

Alternatively, under a system of proportional representation, each political party is represented in the legislature according to its percentage of the total vote nationwide.

Provincial and local elections can mirror these national models, or choose their representatives more informally through group consensus instead of elections. Whatever the method used, public officials in a representative democracy hold office in the name of the people and remain accountable to the people for their actions.

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