Democracy as a form of governance has its roots in the ancient Greek City-States and Rome. The basics of democracy were developed in the ancient Greek City-State of Athens. After many years of constant practice, the rudimentary concept of democracy was massively refined in the era of the Roman Empire. Several centuries later, democracy has become ingrained into the core of politics and governance of the people. In the modern world, almost every nation worth its salt practices one form or another of democracy. Democracy allows the people to have direct control over their leadership and guarantees their fundamental rights and freedoms. Democracy is a form of governance that empowers people to choose their leaders and government. Democracy is a rule by the people that vests sovereign power on the citizens. Democracy as a form of government empowers the people to dictate their political future and destiny. There are various forms of democracy ranging from direct to indirect democracy. For the drafting of the country’s Constitution, an indirect liberal form of democracy is proposed for adoption.
Indirect democracy, also known as representative democracy, is a form of governance in which the people elect their leaders to represent their views and make decisions on their behalf. Indirect democracy as a system of governance that allows citizens to hold their leaders accountable for any action or decision that is done by the leaders in the public realm (Schmitter & Karl, 1991, p. 77). Direct democracy is different from direct democracy where the people are directly involved in decision making and in deciding their political fate. Direct democracy has inherent numerous logistical and philosophical challenges that make it almost impossible to adopt and implement in the modern world. However, indirect democracy is possible and pragmatic to the needs of a new state as it involves the people engaging in an electoral voting process to determine their leaders. The elected leaders are then mandated to make pertinent laws that protect the rights and interests of their subjects.
Indirect democracy has several variants such as liberal indirect democracy and others, which espouse different forms of decision-making approaches. Liberal indirect democracy is a form of representative democracy which is underpinned by the principles of classical liberalism (Schmitter & Karl, 1991). Classical liberalism is a political theory that guarantees civil liberties, rule of law and a free-market economy. Liberal indirect democracy cures the fundamental challenge posed by the democracy of majority rule. Under liberal indirect democracy, the decisions of the majority are implemented within a democratic framework that limits the excesses of the majority and protects the minority. To create and maintain such a democratic framework that protects both the majority and minority liberal indirect democracy has three fundamental underpinnings.
The first core underpinning of liberal representative democracy is the rule of law. The rule of law is defined as the authority and influence exerted by the law in society as a constraint on not only the conduct of the people but also of societal institutions. The rule of law is based on the fundamental principle that all members of society irrespective of wealth, political power and influence or ethnicity and race are all equal before the law. The rule of law also holds that the laws that regulate peoples’ conduct have to be promulgated and implemented progressively. The rule of law is important in an indirect democracy as it ensures that even those who are politically powerful such as lawmakers are also subject to the laws that govern the people. Therefore, it ensures that the legal rights and equities of the people are trampled upon by the political elite.
The second fundamental principle upon which liberal indirect democracy is based upon is the aspect of free and fair elections. Elections are fundamental to democracy as it is the mechanism through which the people elect their representatives. Moreover, its only through elections that the leaders and the government get the legitimacy and the requisite mandate to govern. For a liberal democratic government to succeed the election have to be free, fair and transparent. Democratic elections have to be based on the principle of adult universal suffrage and a one-man-one-vote principle (Rousseau & Cole, 2003). Universal adult suffrage is a principle which allows all adults who have attained requisite requirements of voting to participate in elections. Lastly, the one-man-one-vote principle emphasizes the equality and equity of each vote in an election to ensure that the electoral process if free and fair for all citizens.
Liberal representative democracy is also based on the guarantee and protection of human rights. Democracy has an inherent weakness in the concept of majority rule. In a democratic system of governance, the majority in society make decisions and rule over the minority. This leads to the creation of majority tyranny which is always retrogressive to the interests and rights of the minority. Therefore, to control the concept of majority rule liberal representative democracy is founded on the need to protect and guarantee the fundamental human rights of all people in society irrespective of one’s political status or ethnicity. Human rights and freedoms are the inherent rights and freedoms that are enjoyed by all human beings. Fundamental human rights and freedoms such as the right to life and liberty and freedom from slavery and torture are inalienable rights that all human beings in any society in the world are entitled to.
To protect and guarantee fundamental human rights and freedoms modern constitution-making practices incorporate the concept of the bill of rights. The bill of rights is a provision on essential human rights and freedoms that are protected by the constitution. The bill of rights dictates the fundamental human rights and freedoms which cannot be limited or infringed in any way such as the right to life and liberty and freedom from slavery (Rousseau & Cole, 2003). Moreover, the bill of rights contains rights and freedoms which can be infringed upon or violated in certain special cases. The infringement has to be legal and per the dictates of the rule of law. Rights such as the right to privacy and freedoms such as freedom of movement can be limited subject to the fulfillment of various legal processes. To ensure that the bill of rights is further protected from infringement by the political elite in society for their parochial interests, liberal direct democracy ensures that any individual whose rights and freedoms are illegally infringed upon can get legal relief through the courts.
Liberal direct democracy provides the best form of governance for any new state. Liberal democracy, as a form of governance, has been tested and proven for many years since time immemorial. Moreover, it provides the best method of including the people in governance and in shaping their political and economic future as a nation.
Rousseau, J.-J., & Cole, G. D. H. (2003). On the social contract. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
Schmitter, P. C., & Karl, T. L. (1991). What democracy is… and is not. Journal of democracy, 2(3), 75-88.