Democracy is the most widely acceptable mode of governance all over the world. Democracy could be defined as a system of government in which the people exercise their governing power directly or through representatives who are elected by the majority of the people. The key point in any democratic setting is that the people (eligible voters) have the right to say or choose whoever is to rule them, through electoral process and can equally remove such a one, if he is found wanting or could not perform his functions through same process (method).
The most popular definition of democracy is the one given by the late American president, Abraham Lincoln- as government of the people, by the people and for the people. This means that a government is democratic if it has the support of the citizens and is run by them in their best interest. Government by the people is interpreted as government by the people’s representatives. It is also a government by the consent of the people and government by the majority of the people. In its totality, you cannot detach people from democracy, because it is the backbone or pillar on which democracy stands and thrives.
It is a form of government that allows the will of the people to prevail, because the majority of the people will take decisions concerning what the country will do or not. This arrangement also ensures that the minority is neither overshadowed nor suppressed, but their views are heard and interests safeguarded. Put in another way, the minority will always have their way, while the minority will have a say in any democratic government.
Features Of Democracy
There are so many features or characteristics of democracy. Some of them are discussed below:
1. Periodic Free and Fair Elections
There should be periodic free and fair elections through which people elect their choice leaders and can equally remove them whenever they are not performing.
2. Supremacy Of The Constitution
One major feature of democracy is the existence of a constitution, written or unwritten, which guides and controls the actions of government and the governed. This constitution is supreme and above any person or interest.
3. The Will Of The People
In democracy, the will of the people prevails over and above the will of individuals, groups, or sections. Any democratic government must have the support of the citizens and is there to serve their interest.
4. Multi-Party System
The existence of many political parties in a country is one of the principles of democracy. These political parties compete to ensure that the right people are elected.
5. Tolerance Of Opposition
In a democratic government, organized opposition is allowed to criticize government actions, policies and programmes.
6. Independent Judiciary
The Judiciary should be free from the control and influence of the executive and legislature.
7. Freedom Of The Press
The press should be allowed to investigate and criticize the government policies and programmes. They are like the watchdog of society, and so, should be free to point out loopholes, flaws and lapses in government policies; and also commend and praise the government when they have done well. The citizens should be free to express their views through the press.
8. Fundamental Human Rights
Certain rights of the citizens should be protected and guaranteed by a democratic government. People should enjoy the right of movement, speech, religion, life and property, etc.
9. Rule Of Law
The law of the land should be respected and obeyed by both government and the governed. No one should be exempted nor seen to be above the law. All citizens are equal before the law.
10. Political Equality
Every citizen in a democratic government is given equal opportunity to vote and be voted for, provided they are qualified to participate in the electoral process.
11. Separation Of Powers
The powers of the three organs of government are separated, both in functions and personnel, with checks and balances.
12. Accountability Of The Government To The People
Government should be transparent in money spending and other issues of public interest. They should be able to explain to the people how monies are spent and how government policies are implemented. In summary, the government should be responsible, accountable and responsive to the people that voted it into power.