Meaning And Explanation Of Pillars Of Democracy
Pillar means a strong supporter or a fundamental part or an important feature of something like a system, an organization or an idea. This means that pillars of democracy are those institutions and features which are the main backbone of democracy and upon which it stands, operates and thrives. Without these pillars in operation, democracy will be a mere mockery and in fact a misnomer.
Nigeria offers a good example of a country that has operated a non-democratic system – military regime and a democratic government, which she has operated for the past 18 years (29, May 1999 – till date). Nigeria and her citizenry are reaping the some dividends of democracy, since it was institutionalized on 29th May 1999. Because of its remarkable importance, every 29th May is celebrated as Democracy Day, in commemoration of the landmark departure from military rule to democratic governance.
In any democratic system, the main pillars are:
1. The People
2. Political institutions
3. Rule of law
4. Transparent electoral process
5. Majority rule and minority rights.
Pillars Of Democracy
1. The People
The people are the main backbone or bedrock of democracy. The popular definition of democracy centres on the people. It is government of the people by the people and for the people. The people give the power through their votes in electoral process to their representatives to rule them. The government is also there to meet the needs and aspirations of the people that voted it into power.
These needs cannot be met without the interaction between the government in power and the people, its main supporter. People’s participation in the governmental affairs is what is known as popular participation or political sovereignty. This political sovereignty, belongs to the electorate who give legitimacy to the government of the day. Without the people’s support and participation in the government in power, democracy cannot stand nor be sustained. Based on the above analysis, the people are the major pillars of democracy and in fact an indispensable one.
2. Democratic Institutions
Democratic institutions are pillars of democracy, because it is operated and sustained by their operational and functional presence in any democratic system. Some of them are electoral commissions (INEC), political parties, pressure groups, arms of government, mass media and organized opposition.
3. Rule Of Law
In any democratic system of government, the laws of the land are supreme and above everyone and all citizens are equal before the law. Nobody should be given preferential treatment in the application of the law. The rule of law also means that the law must be obeyed in all situations and things must be done according to the laid down procedures. Rule of law becomes the pillar of democracy, because it safeguards the rights of the citizenry, promotes the independence of the judiciary and ensures compliance to the law governing the land.
4. Transparent Electoral Process
A transparent electoral process ensures the sustenance of democracy in any country. When electoral process is conducted in a free and fair manner, no rigging of elections, no falsification of election figures and every stage of the electoral process is transparently handled, democracy is bound to stand and grow.
5. Majority Rule And Minority Rights
Democracy by its definition is the government by the majority. It is a form of government where the majority of the people rule by having their will and wish carried out by the government in power. But democracy thrives well where the majority rules and those of minority are recognized, their rights and views respected and expressed. They are not suppressed nor overshadowed by those in the majority. This means or implies that they are free to criticize the government constructively and can protest in an orderly form when their rights are infringed upon or are denied them.
Therefore, for democracy to be sustained in any form of government, the majority will have their way but the minority must have a say and their rights respected and protected.