Democratic system of government is considered in cotemporary political world as the most ideal form of governance. Though, the tradition of democracy dates back to the ancient Greek universal form of democracy; where all stakeholders and matured people of age gather in the city square to deliberate and contribute to issues of national interest, the vast and complex nature of contemporary political arena has buttress the need for an indirect representation of the masses interest. Here, through the sovereignty of the people, some elected representatives are given the legitimate authority to reign over the affair of the state.
Democracy can be defined as a system of government which expresses and respect human rights and individual liberty as enshrined in the constitution. Also, the sovereignty lies with the people. No wonder, Abraham Lincoln defined it as “the government for the people, by the people and from the people”. Democracy entails the ‘social contract’ reached by the people and the state, where the ‘social will’ of the individual masses are contracted for the ‘general will’ of the state; whereby they would be protected by the state in return of their political obligation to the state.
Modern form of political democracy is traceable to the American colonies. According to Louck (1926:1), “A century and a half ago political democracy, in its modern sense, had its beginning in the American colonies. Its foundations were laid down in our Declaration of Independence of Great Britain, adopted by the continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The signers of the immortal document gave their sanction to a series of fundamental principles of human liberty and government, and to a specific enumeration of inalienable rights of personal and civil liberty, which marked a new era in the welfare and advancement of mankind”.
This write up would tend to draw out the pros and cons of France, Spain, Zambia, Egypt, USA and Nigeria democracies. Also, the most democratic of these countries would be stated and reasons to back this up would be buttressed.
PROS AND CONS OF NIGERIAN DEMOCRACY
Nigeria since her independence from the British colonial regime in 1st October, 1960, the country had witnessed several series of military coup de’tres and counter coups. The military regimes had greatly recorded a high degree of human right abuses, and de-facto governments that lack the legitimacy from the Nigerian people. Hence, legitimacy crises and disregards for constitutional doctrines was the order of the day in the 30 years reign of military regimes. The present democratic regime in Nigeria took off in May 29th, 1999, and it is still in its nascent state and the process of its consolidation. (Dibie, 2000).
The good sides of the Nigerian democratic system include the following:
The bad sides of the Nigerian democracy include the following:
v Corruption is a factor that is a bane to the growth of the nascent democracy in Nigeria. Public officers tend to serve their personal interest and enriching themselves at the detriments of the Nigerian masses. This has recorded huge amount of naira being siphoned to foreign accounts by those occupying public offices.
v There is still to some extend the abuse of human rights in the present democratic regime, where there is indiscriminate arrest and detentions, political unrest and thuggery.
v The Nigerian nascent democracy is bedeviled by pockets of ethnic and tribal clashes arising from inadequate allocation of fiscal revenue and other ethnic and religious considerations.
v Elections in Nigeria are marred by Money Bags high jacking the available positions through fraudulent and the giving of monetary enticement to electoral officials and sometimes the gullible masses.
The Nigerian top office holders, especially those in the executive and legislative arms of government, disregards court rulings, on issues affecting public policies and others concerning their activities in the office they occupy.
PROS AND CONS OF THE UNITED STATE DEMOCRACY
As earlier stated, modern democracy is traceable to the American colonies. Most democratic countries in the world tend to look up to the democracy in the US as a prototype for their own democracies. The United States since 1776, when it declared her independence from the Great Britain, has been operating on democratic system of government.
The pros of the US democracy include:
The cons of the US democracy include:
v Inequality in the representation of political institution, such as the senate. According to Dahl (2001), out of the twenty-two democracies he surveyed the United States have the most unequal representation, largely due to the principle of equal representation of the states in the Senate and Electoral college. “As our country becomes less homogeneous and more diverse, we may want to consider proportional representation more seriously…Dahl’s central conclusion and criticism, however, is that our constitution flouts the principle of political equality or democratic fairness (McGowan, 2003).
v The US democratic system deviates from the principle of majority rule to plurality. “Most of our elections for national office require a candidate only to earn a plurality, not a majority, of the votes cast to win election” (ibid). This has resulted in the Supreme Court declaring the winner, as the case was for the 2000 election. “In 2000, for the fourth time in our history, the presidential candidate with the most votes lost. And for the second time in our history, the Supreme Court- the deliberate non-democratic branch of our government decided the election” (ibid)
v The US democracy do not allow for direct election of political candidates. This is done through Electoral College, i.e. election through an elected representative body. This does not permit people to make their direct personal preferences.
v The Us democracy is also being threatened by racial inequalities. The discrimination on color and racial bases has made the inequality in the access to corridor of power. “Indeed, the pretense of not noticing race threatens to make Americans not so much blind as deaf and dumb: deaf to the anguish engendered by the color line and dumb about how that anguish relates to the promises of American democracy” (Balfour, 2001).
PROS AND CONS OF ZAMBIA DEMOCRACY
Zambia post independence political history is divided into three republics. The first republic witnessed a multiparty period from independence in 1964 to 1972. The second republic is the single party era from 1973- 1990. the third republic emerged technically in December 1990, when signed by Kaunda, but in practice, the republic came after the 31st October elections in 1991 (Sardc, 2006).
The pros of the Zambian democracy include:
Cons of Zambian democracy
v The Zambian democracy is one that is unstable due to change from one system of government to the other. These include change from one party system to a multi party system, change from a parliamentary system to a Presidential system of government and change from a majority rule to pluralism.
v The Zambian democracy is one that has remained a de facto one party state, due to the enormous powers of the President and through his ruling party.
v Zambian democracy has witnessed several attempts of staged coups by the military. This has brought about many periods of state of emergencies.
v Corruption from elected leaders is also a bane to the Zambian democracy, where leaders are corruptly embezzling public funds for their self use.
v Zambian leaders tend to over stay beyond the required number of period constitutionally stated. When they occupy positions of power to relinquish them becomes a daunting task.
PROS AND CONS OF SPAIN DEMOCRACY
The present Spanish democracy stemmed from the dictatorial regime of Franco 91939-1977) which witnessed million massacre of those opposing his dictatorial regime (Navarro, 2004). Spain was no nearer to being a democratic country than she had been on 12 February 1974. For all that the Arias years had paved the way, for all the growing confidence of the opposition, the ostensible power of the Francoist establishment and, above all, of the armed forces remained undiminished (Preston, 1990:91).
Pros and cons of the Spanish democracy include:
Cons of the Spanish democracy include:
v The transition to democracy in Spain was conditioned on the retention of the Monarchy and the establishment of an electoral law that would benefit the right enormously (Navarro, 2004)
v There is discrimination at the number of votes needed by each regions to place candidates in the parliament. “…Avila, one of the most conservative regions in Spain, needs only 30,000 votes to place a member in the parliament, while Barcelona, a progressive region, needs 150,000” (ibid)
v The PP ruling party constitute of major forces such as the monarchic forces, the employers associated, banking institutions, the church, and the large land owners, among others. This made the PP has a very limited democratic culture (ibid).
v The democracy in Spain still witness the incidence of massacre and infringement on human rights
PROS AND CONS OF FRANCE DEMOCRACY
The pros associated with France democracy include:
The cons associated with France democracy include:
v There is the problem of reconciling monarchical rule and political institutions such as the national Assembly.
v Few political parties or broadly accepted school of political thought rarely believe in parliamentary sovereignty (Thomson, 1952:75)
v During France revolutionary state there was the difficulty of reconciling democracy and government, freedom and administration, the sovereignty of the people with the rule of law. “These contrary conceptions of government remained an issue throughout the Republic, though the controversy took varying forms…conflict between centralization and decentralization, with Monarchists and Radicals and Democrats” (ibid).
PROS AND CONS OF DEMOCRACY IN EGYPT
Like most Arab and Islamic country’s democracies, the Egyptian democracy is being teleguided by Islamic laws and thus has no much positive aspect and hence can be termed as to some extend being undemocratic. According to Freedom House, quoted in Tessler (2002), “not a single Arab country qualifies as an electoral democracy”.
The pro identified pro associated with Egyptian democracy is that there is the process of consolidation going on, to bring the democracy in line with modern democratic norms and values.
The cons with Egyptian democracy include:
v There is instability and political economic distortion as a result of unchecked use of state power, combined with the state’s whimsical ability to use the rule of law for its own political ends (ibid).
v Egypt’s democracy is backsliding into electoral manipulation and repressions of Islamic movement (ibid).
v There is record of less political participation by the populace in the Egyptian democracy.
v There is little or no freedom of speech and thought in Arab countries, Egypt inclusive.
v There are incidences of human right abuses in the Egyptian democracy.
MOST DEMOCRATIC COUN TRY
In the real sense no country democracy is free from antidemocratic ideals. Hence, none can be termed as a perfect democracy. But from the observed democracies of Nigeria, USA, France, Egypt, Spain and Zambia, the democracy of the United States of America can be said to be most democratic. Despite the fact that the US democracy has its own cons and delimitating factors against its state of being perfect, it still stands out among the other democratic countries under this study.
According to McGowan (2003), characteristics of most ideal democracy include: First, a constitution must help maintain a stable government. Second, a constitution must protect fundamental democratic rights. Third, it must ensure democratic fairness among citizens. Fourth, it must help form democratic consensus. Fifth, it must create a government embodying these characteristics that can also solve problems effectively.
Looking at the democracy in US, it is seen that for some centuries now, since 1776, it has maintained a more stable pattern than any of the observed democracies. And most country who practice democratic rule uses US democracy as a bases for the comparing how consolidated their democracies are. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “our country offers the most wonderful example of democratic government on a giant scale that the world has ever seen; and the peoples of the world are watching to see whether we succeed or fail” (quotedb.com, 2006)
According to Lipset, cited by Carroll (2005), American democracy is the best of the best, this flow from a stable and continuing democracy and also the additional advantage of a democracy reinforced by the cultural heritage of a Revolution that did not occur in England, Canada or Australia.
Another adduced reason why the US democracy is the most democratic is the level of political participation it has compared to others. Any citizen of US that is of age has the right and the access to partake and contribute meaningfully in the democratic administration of the US state.
The US democracy also practice to a great extends human liberty and the respect for human rights. There is freedom speech and association. These may not be extensively practiced in other democracies. “Democracy today comes more to mean the struggle of ordinary people to create a free way of life in a world of complex and productive power networks” (Gabardi, 2001).
The US democracy has greater respect for its constitution which is the bases on which all political activities are being conducted and relationships defined.
The high level of public accountability in the US democracy is a vital point that also signifies the country’s democracy as the most democratic. The US public has access to public financial records, and can raise question where there is any observed irregularities.
The level of credibility associated with election of political office holder is very high in US democracy compared to other political irregularities and malpractices that mar the election processes of others.
Balfour, Lawrie (2001), The Evidence of Things Not Said: James Baldwin and the Promise of American Democracy. NY Ithaca: Cornell University press.
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2005), “France: country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2004” http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41681.htm (4/04/06)
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Dahl Robert A. (2001), How democratic is the American Constitution? New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Dibie Robert (2000), Understanding Public Policy in Nigeria: A Twenty- First Century Approach. Lagos: Mbeyi & Associates (Nig.) Ltd
Gabardi, Wayne (2001), “Contemporary Models of Democracy” in Polity. Vol. 33, Issues 4.
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Preston, Paul (1990), The Triumph of Democracy in Spain. London: Routledge
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SARDC (2006), “democratic fact file- Zambia” http://www.sardc.net/sd/sd_factfile_zambia.htm (31/01/06)
Tessler, Mark (2002), “Do Islamic Orientations Influence Attitudes towards Democracy in the Arab World? Evidence from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Algeria” in International Journal of Comparative Sociology
Thomson, David (2003), Democracy in France: The Third and Fourth Republic. London: Oxford University Press.
USAID (2006), “Government is Held More Accountable, Democracy and Governance USAID/ Zambia” http://www.usaid.gov/zm/democracy/dg.htm (4/04/06)
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