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Opinion Share This Page
Democracy Dying
by J. Ajithkumar Bookmark and Share
 

Is democracy the best form of government? The question is being increasingly posed by common man in so-called democratic countries worldwide. In the developed world, where most countries became democratic only after their colonial era when they plundered and amassed ill-gotten wealth from far off continents, the question is silent and academic. But it is not so in the democratic countries of the developing world. All of us want to see a just and happy society within our lifetime and with democratic governments it is simply not happening. Democracy promised the best form of representative rule but invariably the actual power lands in the hands of few who wield it with no qualms. In many of the bigger and populous nations, the system is tending to 'democrazy' or 'demoncracy'. Coteries and collaborators unelected by the common man are taking over reigns in many major democracies. Electoral politics has brought down democracy from nobler echelons to the lowest levels of probity.

Changing Definition

One of the few American Presidents respected worldwide, Abraham Lincoln, had defined democracy as a form of government of the people, by the people and for the people in his famous Gettysburg Address, 1863. In those days, people of a nation were not divided as majority and minorities as of now. So when he said people, he meant a majority of all people. But now it is the majority versus the minorities in all countries. The definition of majority and minorities is more often based on religion than anything else. Almost all nations have a majority and several minorities. It would be interesting to see how democracy fits into this era of religions. Substituting people with majority and minorities, we can have several combinations for a new definition of democracy:

Of

By

For

Majority Majority Majority
Majority Majority Minorities
Majority Minorities Minorities
Minorities Minorities Majority
Minorities Majority Majority
Minorities Majority Minorities
Minorities Minorities Minorities

In the above table, the definition of democracy takes a full circle between majority-majority-majority to minorities-minorities-minorities. In a secular democratic country with universal adult franchise, the ideal situation would be a government of majority by majority equally for majority and minorities. But our experience the world over proves that it is not possible to have perfect conditions when imperfect humans are involved. It will be either hijacked by the minorities or forcibly usurped by the majority. Someone is bound to suffer and a fair and just society never develops in a democratic environment. Re-definition of democracy to suit the current conditions world over is long overdue if democracy is to remain a meaningful option.

Checks and Balances 

What is singularly lacking in any democratic form of governance is an effective method of recalling elected representatives if they do not perform. In the world's largest democracy, it is field day for five years for many from the day they get elected by fluke or crook. There are several members who do not get up and speak even once in their five years of tenure. Uneducated, unqualified and incapable candidates get elected merely on the basis of their birth in a particular caste, religion or place, all three of which are beyond anyone's control. Meaningful democracy rests on the foundation of meritorious candidates getting elected only on the basis of declared policies of their political parties. The whole purpose is defeated if there is no role for any form of merit (except relative's merit) in the complete election process. And that is exactly what has come to in almost all democracies in the developing world.

Another important factor that is making democracy ineffective is the status quo mentality with regard to the constitution which is supposed to make it work. All constitutions are man made and therefore perfect only for the time being. What is good for the nation today need not be good tomorrow, yet there is strange affinity for the rulers to keep it unchanged. Amending the constitution for maintaining progress and development of the society must be a natural process and not something to be fought for. Elected members must be debating on how to amend the laws of the land for progress and prosperity of the nation much before there is a clamor from the laymen. To a large extent, death of democracy is accelerated by the single fact that less than 10% time of any parliament is spent on debating changes in laws and constitution. Instead, most of the time it serves as an opera house in focus for protests and pandemonium to highlight the success and failures of government for maximum mileage in the next elections.

Looking for Options 

If we are looking around for better options of governance, controlled monarchy definitely emerges as a good substitute. There are many oldies who argue that conventional monarchy was better because corruption was limited to only one family. When we notice the extent of corruption in the democratic countries worldwide, we cannot but accept the merit in this apparently silly argument. Governance is must for sustaining a civilized society and assigning the role to the best person and his family seems to be the best option available. The only point to be noted is the mechanism for dethroning the ruler when his will is totally against those of his subjects. Approval of the ruler in a cycle of every five years may be the best method to achieve this. Also, ascension should not be automatic but subject to the approval of the people by means of a democratic country wide election. 

In any case, it is high time that the several institutes researching on democracy started thinking unconventionally to evolve hybrid models of governance if democracy is to survive in one form or another. Pure conventional democracy with universal adult franchise has failed like pure communism. Combining the best traits in monarchy and democracy (call it monocracy) can work out systems of governance good for the common man. Good men among us with in-built nationalism and natural justice can definitely become our rulers. Perhaps that is the only way to ensure that poverty, illiteracy and all sorts of misery are eliminated in our society within the shortest time possible. Many of the developing countries cannot survive without such revolutionary changes in governance. 
 

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09-Apr-2006
More by :  J. Ajithkumar
 
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