In this season of election fever, we actually realise the beauty of democracy. Democracy is just not a word, its define hole content of freedom of the individual. Here we are sharing some amazing facts of democracy that will never you know.
A cry of relief that our Messiah has finally arrived (the BJP poll anthem has NaMo thundering: Saughandh Mujhe Is Mitti Ki, Mai Desh Nahin Mitne Dunga). You know what, it’s just the 120 -150 million first time voters hankering for a new experience to flaunt on Facebook!
The Power Of One. Isn’t that the beauty of a democracy? To know that you have a say in the future of your country, even if it happens only once in five years; to acknowledge the responsibility of making it count. So as post-colonial India awaits its 16th democratically elected government this May, here are 8 interesting facts about elections and democracy.
Not all democracies are equal
We all know that writing a constitution and holding elections does not ensure a fully functioning democracy – governments can, and will, find ways to function as autocracies in the guise of democracy, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) developed a Democracy Index in 2007 to measure the state of democracy in the world. It uses five parameters to assess a democracy – electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties. Each parameter is graded and an overall score is calculated, based on which countries are classified into Full Democracies, Flawed Democracies, Hybrid Regimes and Authoritarian Regimes.
225 years of modern democracy
The oldest recognized democracy in the modern world is the United States of America, which adopted its Constitution pledging an elected government and civil rights to some American citizens in 1787 (Not all American citizens had equal rights at that time – the Indian Constitution codifying equal rights for all was truly visionary).
Interestingly, current opinion is divided within the United States on its status as a democracy, with some experts claiming it is an oligarchy. A study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern Universities states: ” “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence”. The report used extensive policy data for the years 1981 and 2002 to arrive at this conclusion and plans on incorporating these findings into its teachings this September.
The youngest democracies in the world are Egypt and Libya, who embraced democracy in 2012 and are currently in a state of fragile transition.
Problems notwithstanding, it’s worth celebrating democracy
Yes, democracy does not guarantee freedom or equality, and in some countries, it’s a shallow cloak for corrupt and authoritarian regimes. Nonetheless, isn’t the chance to express your voice – in muted protest or active revolution – better than none? It’s fitting that the United Nations decided that democracies need to be celebrated, and declared September 15 as the International Day of Democracy.
The world is becoming more democratic, at least on paper
My school’s motto read Vasudev Kutumbakam, meaning the world is a single family. We might as well add the word “democratic” in the middle. Of the 193 countries that are a part of the United Nations, 167 are democracies – that’s an impressive 87%! But over one in three people in the world still live in an autocratic system – because of China, the most populous country in the world is not a democracy.
Notable amongst the countries that are recognized as autocracies are China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Oman & Qatar.
There are no escaping Elections
Citizens across the world are demanding the right to choose their government through elections. The electoral process may not always be fair – or peaceful – but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for even authoritarian governments to ignore the clarion call of the people. The continent that appears to have benefited most from this is Africa – after decades of witnessing change only by means of coups and massacres, it has seen over 80% of its leaders being replaced by “ballots, not bullets” from 2000 – 2005.
The only 5 countries in the world (with populations greater than 500,000) not to hold elections between 2000 and 2012 are: China, Eritrea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia & United Arab Emirates.
Second Tryst with Democracy
India’s adoption of democracy in 1947 is by no means its first experiment with this system – the Chola Empire of South India had an electoral system in place, 1,000 years ago.
Wealth and Democracy make happy bedfellows
According to Alina Rocha Menocal of the Overseas Development Institute, outside of the petro-states & China, the 25 richest countries in the world as ranked by the World Bank are also fully established democracies. Does wealth lead to democracy, or vice-versa? We’ll need to question the chicken on that!