Democracy: Features And Democratic Institutions And Their Functions

Table Of Contents
1. Meaning Of Democracy
2. Features Of Democracy
3. Democratic Institutions And Their Functions
4. Importance Of Democracy.
Meaning Of Democracy
Democracy is a principle government in which the adult citizens have a say in the affairs of government. It is a system which encourages and promote participation and freedom of choice eletions. Leaders emerge through eletion in which citizens freely make choice of who should govern or represent them in government. A government is adjudged democratic to the extent its citizens exercise influence or participate in the actions and decisions of government.
Democracy respects the rights and liberty of citizens, such as, freedom of speech, association and rule of law, equlity, majority rule and minority right.
Th Greek model of democracy was the direct democracy, in which all eligable adults in a state gathered at the city square to debate, deliberate and decide on government policies. This model of democracy is not feasible or realizable in a modern state, because modern state have very large populations, vast territories and the nature and functions of goverment have grown in structure and complexity.
Features Of Democracy
1. Multiparty System:
Democracy allows for the existence of many political parties. This encourages citizens wider options and opportunities to participate in politics. Multiparty system promotes the growth of opposition which is an essential element of democracy.
2. Rule of Law:
In a democratic state, the actions and conducts of constituted authority must be based on the law. Rule of law is a distinguishing feature of a democration government. Its application prevents arbitrariness and miscarriage of justice by government.
3. Protection of Minority Right:
Democracy connote’s majority rule. It aslo encourages minority right. While the majority rule, the minority must have its say. Those in power must consider minority opinion and right in the scheme of things.
4. Political participation:
Democracy encourage political paeticipation of all eligible citizens freely vote to elect leaders or representatives. The elected represestatives protect the interest of the pepople. It also means that the people have right to remove of their vote.
5. Periodic elections:
In a democracy, there is defined tenure of office for elected offfice holders. There is provision for periodic elections during which citizens renew the tenure of office holders, if they performed well or are voted out for lack of performance.
This is a chesk against bad governance by elected leaders.
6. Aduit suffrage:
In democracy, citizens have right to vote or be voted for elections. This right id however subject to limitations of mental instability, age or citizenship of the nation.
7. Human rights:
Citizens fundamental rights are guaranteed under the law.
The rights include, freedom of speech, association,religious worship, assembly etc.
8. Free and fair elections:
The process and conduct of elections are open, transparent, free and fair. Election results must not be manipulated, while the outcome of elections must be respected.
Democratic Institutions And Their Functions
1. INEC-Independent National Electoral Commission:
INEC is the institution of government responsible for the organization and conduct of elections in Nigeria. It has both legal and constitutional backing in the performance of this responsibility. The success or failure of elections depends primarily on the efficiency and integrity of the officials of the INEC.
By name, the body is independent hence, it is expected to be politically neutral and non partisan. The INEC is the final arbiter in election matters and its decisions can only be upturned in election tribunals or law courts. The INEC enjoys and applies immense discretion and powers in the performance of its responsibility of achieving free and fair elections.
i. The INEC is responsible for the registration of voters.
ii. It enlightens the public on electoral matters.
iii. It supervises the conduct of political parties’ congresses to elect party officials and party primaries to select candidates.
iv. It allocates and disburses government financial grants to political parties.
v. It registers political parties,and can withdraw recognition of registered political parties, but this must be in line with the law.
vi. It screens candidates from political parties to determine their eligibility for elections.
vii. It demarcates or divides the country into electoral constituencies, which form the bases for political wards, state constituency and federal constituency creations.
2. Political Parties:
A political party is an organized group which seeks to win elections in order to gain power and form government. It is composed of men and women who share common principles, ideology, interests and aspirations on the use of to create wealth, prosperity and welfare for the citizens.
Political parties have constitutions which guide the actions or conducts of members and leaders. Political parties mobilize the support of the electorate(voters) to win elections. They also embark on membership drive. They conduct primary elections to select suitable candidates to contest election. They conduct electoral campaigns during which they promote the programmes or manifestoes of the party.
Presently in Nigeria, we have over fifty registered political parties. The major political parties are PDP, people’s democratic party; ANPP, All Nigeria People’s Party; ACN, Action Congress Of Nigeria; APGA, All Progressive Grand Alliance; Labour Party (LP).
3. Pressure Groups:
A pressure group is an organized group of persons whose aim is primarily to promote and advance the interest of its members and to influence the policies of government, for the benefit of its members.
Pressure group apply lobby and persuasion as strategy to achieve the goals of their members. They also use protest demonstration, strike actions and mass media propaganda to home their case. Pressure groups are organized along professional lines such as lawyers, doctor, engineers hence we have Nigeria Bar Association, Nigeria Medical Association and Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN).
Pressure groups may be occupational such as the Nigeria Union of Teachers(NUT), Nigeria Union of Journalist(NUJ), Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers(NURTW).
Pressure groups could be religious groups like the Christian Association of Nigerian(CAN), Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Students Association. Pressure groups function in ways that promote democracy. By their constant pressures, they promote and defend the rights of their members. Their pressure also enable government to assess itself and make amendments. They therefore influence government to perform its role as the provider of public good.
4. The Arms Of Government:
The three arms of government, the executive, legislature and the judiciary as we have discussed severally in this book provide the structure of democracy. The functions of the three arms provide checks and balances which give stability to democracy. They prevent the concentration of power in one single authority and save society from autocracy and oligarchy which are rule by a few powerful individuals.
Importance Of Democracy
1. Promotion Of Human Rights And Freedom:
By its nature democracy is a principle of government which promotes human development and the full actualization of the human worth. It enables man to flourish and realize his full potentials, because it encourages freedom and human liberty.
Society flourishes and develops because citizens are not restricted in speech religious worship, association, meaningful engagements and wealth creation.
These opportunities which the citizens have contribute in the rapid development of society.
2. Good Governance:
Because democracy promotes citizens participation, free choice and free and fair elections, elected leaders must provide good governance as a guarantee for support and loyalty of citizens. Therefore elected leaders must be accountable to the people and provide transparency in governance. Good governance by elected leaders is a guarantee for their re-election and continued support by the electorate.
3. Rule Of Law And Constitutionalism:
The rule of law and constitutionalism are the pillars of democracy. They prevent arbitrary exercise of power, because the actions and conducts of constituted authority must be based on law.
Rule of law and constitutionalism imply that actions and conducts of government must follow due process of the law and in line with the constitution. They promote accountability- protection of human rights, equality and impartiality in government.
4. Participation In Politics:
Democracy promotes participation of citizens in the affairs of the country through popular elections, which are free and fair. Through their representatives, the citizens express their desires and demands on the government. That is why it is described as government of the people by the people and for the people. Power belongs to the people through their vote which determines who can win election and govern or rule the people.