PRINCIPLES OF DEMOCRACY
From “Democracy for All,” Street Law, Inc.: http://www.streetlaw.org/democlesson.html
People from around the world have identified the basic principles, which must exist in order to have a democratic government. These principles often become a part of the constitution or bill of rights in a democratic society. Though no two democratic countries are exactly alike, people in democracies support many of the same basic principles and desire the same benefits from their government.
1. CITIZEN PARTICIPATION 2. EQUALITY 3. POLITICAL TOLERANCE 4. ACCOUNTABILITY 5. TRANSPARENCY 6. REGULAR FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS 7. ECONOMIC FREEDOM 8. CONTROL OF THE ABUSE OF POWER 9. BILL OF RIGHTS 10. ACCEPTING THE RESULTS OF ELECTIONS 11. HUMAN RIGHTS 12. MULTI PARTY SYSTEM 13. RULE OF LAW
1. Citizen Participation
One of the most basic signposts of a democracy is citizen participation in government. Participation is the key role of citizens in democracy. It is not only their right, but it is their duty. Citizen participation may take many forms including standing for election, voting in elections, becoming informed, debating issues, attending community or civic meetings, being members of private voluntary organizations, paying taxes, and even protesting. Participation builds a better democracy.
Democratic societies emphasize the principle that all people are equal. Equality means that all individuals are valued equally, have equal opportunities, and may not be discriminated against because of their race, religion, ethnic group, gender or sexual orientation. In a democracy, individuals and groups still maintain their right to have different cultures, personalities, languages and beliefs.
3. Political Tolerance
Democratic societies are politically tolerant. This means that while the majority of the people rule in a democracy, the rights of the minority must be protected. People who are not in power must be allowed to organize and speak out. Minorities are sometimes referred to as the opposition because they may have ideas which are different from the majority. Individual citizens must also learn to be tolerant of each other. A democratic society is often composed of people from different cultures, racial, religious and ethnic groups who have viewpoints different from the majority of the population. A democratic society is enriched by diversity. If the majority deny rights to and destroy their opposition, then they also destroy democracy. One goal of democracy is to make the best possible decision for the society. To achieve this, respect for all people and their points of view is needed. Decisions are more likely to be accepted, even by those who oppose them, if all citizens have been allowed to discuss, debate and question them.
In a democracy, elected and appointed officials have to be accountable to the people. They are responsible for their actions. Officials must make decisions and perform their duties according to the will and wishes of the people, not for themselves.
For government to be accountable the people must be aware of what is happening in the country. This is referred to as transparency in government. A transparent government holds public meetings and allows citizens to attend. In a democracy, the press and the people are able to get information about what decisions are being made, by whom and why.
6. Regular, Free and Fair Elections
One way citizens of the country express their will is by electing officials to represent them in government. Democracy insists that these elected officials are chosen and peacefully removed from office in a free and fair manner. Intimidation, corruption and threats to citizens during or before an election are against the principles of democracy. In a democracy, elections are held regularly every so many years. Participation in elections should not be based on a...