The term democracy originated in Athens and has its roots in the Greek language, in which “demos” mean “people” while “kratos” mean “rule.” Thus in literal sense the term democracy refers to the rule of the people. It is important to mention here the famous quote of Lincoln– the father of democracy. He defined democracy as:”Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”However, it is difficult to find any consensus on the meaning and definition of the term.
Different scholars have defined democracy according to their own perceptions. For instance a relatively simple definition of the term was given by Joseph Schumpeter. He defined democracy as merely a method of choosing a leadership for the purpose of taking political decisions based in an institutional arrangement. During this process the real power lies with the individuals who bestow their powers onto a particular leader in order to take decisions. (Schumpeter, 1950). This definition however does not explain who has the right to vote? Which is a major factor in determining the true meaning of the term democracy, as in the twenty first century if nothing else, scholars however do believe in the fact that the right to vote is the basics of any democratic state which distinguishes democracy from dictatorship. David Held, on the other hand, gives a little more exclusive definition of the term. He described democracy as the existence of political equality among the people.
The basic feature of this political democracy is the presence of equal rights as well as equal obligations within a political community. (Held, 1996). The definitions given by the two scholars above seems to be a pole a part. Schumpeter gave somewhat an inclusive definition of the term in question while the same term was defined more exclusively by Held. In the middle of these two scholars lies a more detailed and to some extent more comprehensive definition of the term, that was given by Robert Dahl. In 1981 Dahl described democracy as a political system where citizens can • Articulate their own preferences. • Express their preferences to other citizens as well as to the government.• Have their preferences equally transmitted in the management of the state affairs.
This however is more of an idealistic definition of the term democracy which is so far not achievable, thus Dahl used the term polyarchy to refer to somewhat little less than the ideal form of democracy, which fulfill at least the following conditions.1. Control over government decisions is constitutionally vested in elected officials.2. Elected officials are chosen in free, fair, and frequent elections.3.
Practically all adults have the right to vote in elections.4. Practically all adults have the right to run for elective offices.5. Citizens have the right to express themselves freely on political matters.6.
Alternative sources of information are freely and legally available.7. Everyone has the right to form parties, pressure groups, and other associations independent of the state.
(Dahl, 1989)The term polyarchy involves two main dimensions,• Competition• Political participationDahl’s approach was however severe criticized by a number of scholars as they considered it to be lacking in providing a proper distinguished difference between “democratic” and “nondemocratic” states.Rose et al (1998) opted for a definition that was based on the concepts put forth by Juan Linz and Alfred Stephan (1996). They identified four characteristics that were of central importance in categorizing a regime:1. The rule of law2.
Free and fair election3. Civil society institutions4. Accountability of governorsMorlino (1998) believed democracy to be a regime with components like universal adult suffrage, political parties (more than one), more than one sources of information and elections that are free, recurring, competitive and fair.The origination of this term soon developed into a discussion on good and bad practices of democracy. Morlino (2004) coined his explanation of a good democracy. A good democracy, he believed, is one which presents stable institutional structures, realizing citizens’ liberty and equality through legitimate and correct institutional and mechanical functioning of the government. In a good democracy, the citizens, associations as well as communities enjoy liberty and equality, at least to a moderate level.
Also, the citizens themselves have power of checking and evaluating if the government is pursuing its objectives as per the rule of law. They not only monitor the government’s efficiency in application of laws, it’s decisions and their efficacy, but also the political accountability and responsibility of officials that have been elected as per the civil society’s demands.Diamond (2004) furthered this argument by stating that a good or quality democracy not only provides its citizens with ample freedom and political equality, but also give them control over the public policies and the policy makers through legitimate state institution functioning. It can be seen in these arguments that a good democracy requires stable institutional structures. This paper argues that for stable institutional structures, it is important that the citizens be politically aware and have open access to any required form of governmental information resources. On the other hand, if this open access is not available, it leads to brittleness in the democratic structure.