3. Democracy in the contemporary
• In the previous chapter we see how democracy
has expanded during the last hundred years to
more and more countries in the world.
• The expansion of democracy has not been
smooth and straight. It has seen several ups
and downs in different countries.
• It still remains an unstable and uncertain
• We have studied the stories on the making and
unmaking of democracy from different parts of
4. In This Chapter
• What is Democracy?- Meaning and
• Features of Democracy.
• Merits and Demerits of Democracy.
• Difference between Democratic and
Non Democratic form government.
5. Case Studies about different
Pakistan - Military Rule(Parvez Musharraf)
China- Communist party (One party)
Mexico - PRI(Insti- Revo-party)
Zimbabwe - Mugabe (president)
6. What is Democracy?
• Who are the rulers?
• What kind of election?
• Who are the people?
• What kind of form of government?
Let us consider each of these questions with an example.
In the previous chapter we identified one simple factor common
to all democracies : the government is chosen by the people. We
could start with the simple definition that democracy is the
form of government in which the rulers are elected by the
But this simple definition is not adequate . This raises many
7. First feature
Case study of Pakistan under General Musharraf:
• General Parvez Musharraf led a military coup in October 1999.
• He overthrew the democratically elected govt.
• He declared the chief executive of the country.
• In 2002 he changed his position to president
• Then held a referendum- five years extension
• Media, Human right organizations and democratic activist said- referendum
was based on malpractices and fraud.
• In Aug 2002- he issued Legal Frame Work order- amended the constitution of
• According to this order- president can dismiss the national or provisional
• After passing this law Pakistan had elections, elected representatives had some
power but the final power rest with the military officers and general Musharraf
8. First Feature
Clearly there are many reasons why Pakistan under general
Musharraf cannot be called d can not be called a democracy
But let’s we focus on one of these. Can we say that the rulers
are elected by people in Pakistan? Not quite. People may
have elected their representatives to the national and
provincial assemblies but those elected representatives are
not really the rulers. They cannot take the final decisions.
The power to take the final decisions rest with army
officials and with General Musharraf, and none of them are
elected by the people. This cannot be called people’s rule.
This gives us our first feature: In a democracy the final
decision making power must rest with those elected by
9. Second Feature
Case study of China:
• In China elections are regularly held after every five years for
electing the Country’s parliament- Quanguo Renmin Diabiao
Dahui (National peoples congress)
• They have the power to appoint the president.
• It have nearly 3ooo peoples elected from all parts.
• Some members are elected by the army.
• Before contesting the elections the candidates needs the
approval of Chinese Communist party.
• Only those who member in communist party or eight smaller
parties allied to it were allowed to contest election held in
• The government is always formed by the communist party.
10. Second Feature(contd.)
Case study of Mexico:
• Since its independence in 1930, Mexico holds elections after every six
tears to elect its president.
• The country has never been under military rule or dictator rule.
• But until 2000 all election was won by a party called PRI (Institutional
• Opposition parties did contest the elections but never win the election
• The PRI use many dirty tricks to win the election
• All those who employed in govt offices had to attend its party meetings.
• Teachers of govt school forced parents to vote PRI
• Media ignored the activities of opposition parties except to criticise
• Some times the polling booths were shifted from one place to another
place in the last minutes, which made difficult to the people cast their
• The PRI spent a large sum of money in the campaign for its candidates
(Check this incidents along with the features of Democracy and find out
which aspects violated)
11. Second Feature(contd.)
Should we consider the elections prescribed above as examples
of people electing their rulers? Reading these examples we get a
sense that we cannot. There are many problems here. In China
the elections do not offer any serious choice. They have to
choose the ruling party and the people approved by it. Can we
call this a choice?
In the Mexican example, people seemed to really have a choice
but in practice they have no choice. There was no way the ruling
party would defeated, even if people were against it. These are
not fair elections.
We can thus add a second feature to our understanding of
democracy. That feature is: Democracy must be based on a
free and fair election where those currently in power have
a fair chance of loosing.
12. Third Feature
• Saudi Arabia women do not have the right to vote.
• Estonia made its citizenship rules in such a way that people
belonging to Russian minority find it difficult to get the right
• In Fiji, the electoral system such that the vote of an
indigenous Fiji has more value than that of an Indian Fijian.
In the above cases all the citizens are not granted the right of
vote. Can this be called democracy? No, this cannot be called
democracy as democracy is based on a fundamental principle
of political equality. That gives us the third feature of
democracy: In a democracy, each adult citizen must have
one vote and each must have one value.
13. Fourth Feature
Case study of Zimbabwe
• Attained independence from white minority- 1980
• Since then the country has been ruled by ZANU-PF, the party led the freedom
• Leader- Robert Mugabe, has been ruling the country since independence.
• Elections have been held regularly- always won- ZANU
• President is popular- but uses unfair practices in election
• Changed the constitution and increased the power of president and makes
him less accountable.
• Opposition party workers harassed and disrupted.
• There is a law that limits the right to criticise the president
• T V and radio were controlled by govt and give only ruling party version.
• There are independent news papers but the govt harasses those journalists
who go against this.
• The govt has ignored some court judgments and went against it and has
14. Fourth Feature(Contd.)
The example of Zimbabwe shows that popular approval of the
rulers is necessary in a democracy, but it is not sufficient.
Popular governments can be undemocratic. If we wish to assess
a democracy, it is important to look at the elections. But it is
important to look after the elections. There should be sufficient
room for normal political activity, including political opposition,
in the period before elections. This requires that the state
should respect some basic rights of the citizen. They should be
free to think, to have opinions, to express it in public, to form
associations, to protest and to take other political actions.
Everyone should be equal in the eyes of law. These rights must
be protected by an independent judiciary whose orders are
obeyed by everyone.
This aspect gives us the fourth and final feature of democracy: a
democratic government rules within limits set by
constitutional law and citizens’ rights.
15. Merits of Democracy
• A democratic government is a better government because
it is a more accountable form of government.
• Democracy improves the quality of decision making.
• Democracy provides a method to deal with differences and
conflicts. It is suitable the countries like India, which have
diversity of language, religion and cultures. Democracy in
India made it possible to keep unity in diversity.
• In a democracy no one is a permanent winner or loser.
• Democracy is better than other forms of government
because it allows us to correct its own mistakes.
• Democracy enhances the dignity of citizens, because it is
based on the principle of political equality, on recognizing
that the poorest and least educated have the same status as
the rich and the educated.
16. Demerits of Democracy
• Leaders keep changing in a democracy. This leads to instability.
• Democracy is all about political competition and power play.
There is no scope for morality.
• Elected leaders do not know the best interest of the people. It
leads to bad decisions.
• Democracy leads to corruption for it is based on electoral
• Ordinary people don’t know what is good for them; they should
not decide anything.
• Distinguish between Democratic and Non Democratic
government Democratic Govt Non Democratic Govt
• Democracy is the best .
• The rulers are not form of government as accountable to the
rulers are people and their needs. accountable to the people and
have to fulfill their needs.
• In democratic
elect their rulers.
• In a democracy final
decision making power
must rest with those
who are elected by
• In a non-democratic
government people do
not elect their rulers.
• In a non-democratic
government the final
power rest with
dictator or monarch.
• All the rights are given
• Universal adult
franchise is practiced.
• No or some rights are
given to people.
• Generally, Universal
adult franchise is not
19. Broader Meanings Of Democracy
In this chapter we understood the meaning of
Democracy in a limited and descriptive sense.
We have understood Democracy is a form of
govt. The most common form that democracy
takes in our times is that of a representative
democracy. In the countries we call
democracy, all the people do not rule. A
majority is allowed to take decisions on behalf
of all the people. Even majority does not rule
directly rule through their elected
20. Even if they could, the citizen does not have the
time, the desire or the skills to take part in all the
decisions. Modern democracies involves such a
large number of people that it is physically
impossible for them to sit together and take a
collective decision. In Democracy majority of
people rule through their elected
In a democracy every citizen must be able to play
equal role in decision making. For this you don’t
need just an equal right to vote. Every citizen
needs to have equal information, basic education,
equal resources and a lot of commitment.
21. Cartoons in the chapter and their
Ans. Again the cartoon suggests that there is no true democracy in Syria. Yes, it
would suit China and Mexico also where no opposition parties are allowed to
contest election. It is a symbol of victory. In Greece the reward to the winner was
this crown. Here the crown suggests that ‘democracy’ has won and demands
justice, but the one
party rule is denying this right to the people of Syria.
Syria is a small west Asian
country. The ruling Baath Party
and some of its small allies
are the only parties allowed in
that country. Do you think this
cartoon could apply to
China or Mexico?
22. This cartoon was drawn
when elections were held
in Iraq with the presence
of US and foreign powers.
What do you think this
cartoon is saying? Why is
‘democracy’ written in
the way it is?
Democracy — where fear and fair elections must be
held — is being forced on Iraq by the US and its allies.
There are no “free” and “fair” elections. The capital M
23. This cartoon was titled
‘Building democracy’ and was
first published in a
Latin American publication.
What do moneybags signify
here? Could this cartoon be
applied to India?
This cartoon suggests that
‘democracy’ is in the hand of
the rich. They control the
country. No, there are laws
which see to it that the rich do
not get the upper hand.
24. This cartoon is about
the Iraqi election
held after Saddam
was overthrown. He
is shown behind the
bars. What is the
the message of this
cartoon with the first
cartoon in this
The cartoon shows the end of dictatorship in Iraq where Saddam
ruled unchecked. People rejoice at elections being held. But the
first cartoon shows that people do not have a real choice. They
are forced to vote, by the powerful US and its allies.
blocked free flow of
information on the
internet by placing
‘Google’ and ‘Yahoo’.
The image of tanks
and an unarmed
the reader of
event in recent
The cartoon reminds us about the Massacre in Liananmen square in 1989.
In April 1989, triggered by the death of Hu Yaobang, a liberal reformer
mass gathering and protests took place in and around Tiananmen Square
in Beijing. It was largely a student run demonstration which called for
economic reform and press freedom. The Chinese Government brutally
suppressed the movement for which it was internationally condemnd.
26. This cartoon is from
Brazil, a country that
has long experience of
dictatorship. It is
entitled “The Hidden
Side of Dictatorship.”
Which hidden sides
does this cartoon
Hidden side of dictatorship is massacre or opposes
the policies of a dictator is killed. Since the dictators
control the media, the public never comes to know
the number of people killed.
27. This cartoon shows the booth capturing with the gun.
This ca be applicable in Pakistan, Iraq and Myanmar where
people are forced to vote.
Booth capturing by the people standing in elections happens
sometimes in our country also.
This cartoon was drawn in
the context of Latin America.
Do you think it applies to
the Pakistani situation as
well? Think of other
countries where this could
apply. Does this happen
sometimes in our country as
28. This cartoon was published
in Canada just before its
parliamentary elections of
2005. Everyone, including
the cartoonist, expected the
Liberal Party to win once
again. When the results
came, the Liberal Party lost
the elections. Is this
cartoon an argument
against democracy or for
This cartoon is definitely in favor of democracy. In an
indirect way it is telling the public not to be fooled and
exercise their voting rights wisely, which they did by
ousting the Liberals in the elections.
29. This cartoon by R.K. Laxman comments on the celebrations of the fifty years of
independence. The cartoon reflect the opinion of the general public. Still after 50
•basic facilities are denied to the common man
• poverty is not eradicated, there is shortage of water, power, shelter, schools,
the basic necessities of life.
The common man is bored by promises which are never fulfilled, actions do
not match the promises.