What Set Of Characteristics Define A Democratic State? Monash University / Politics Research Paper

1402 words - 6 pages

Christine Nghiem
What set of characteristics define a democratic state and what conditions are required for democratic regimes to flourish? Your answer must include reference to two or more democratic states. 
A democracy can be defined as a political system in which government is based on a fair and open mandate from all qualified citizens. However, Hague, Harrop and McCormic (2016, p. 38) argue that there is ‘no fixed and agreed definition of democracy’ and look to the characteristics of a modern democracy to help gather an idea of its ‘precise meaning’. They entail that a democracy requires a form of representative government, protection of individual rights and freedoms, free and fair elections, checks and balances, and an effective and protected opposition. Democratic governments are expected to enhance prosperity, maintain rights and peace in comparison to other form of governments (Dahl, 1998, p. 46), but this isn’t always the case. For a democracy to flourish, certain conditions become an absolute necessity, including a certain level of education, political awakening, freedom and a written Constitution.
The first main characteristic of a democratic state is the representative nature of government. This idea is exercised through the ability to elect political leaders to represent the common interests of the people and ensure that all interests of the community are acknowledged, including the minorities. Representative democracies do not expect the people to make important decisions and instead citizens are able to voice their problems and furthermore pressurise the government into making laws for the betterment of society. For example, Australia’s representative system of government allows for the beliefs, attitudes and perspectives of the people to be represented but it also exists at a number of levels, providing for an elaborate system of government. For a representative system of government such as Australia to flourish, the levels of government should be intact but independent of each other. Representation of the people is one of the most essential conditions for an ideal democracy, without it, the government would not reflect public opinion nor would it be able to educate the citizens on different political issues.
Additionally, another core characteristic of a democratic state is the ability to vote freely and fairly. A state cannot be truly democratic until its citizens have the freedom and opportunity to choose their representatives through free and fair elections. The purpose of an election is to vote in a political party that will ensure popular support and legitimacy, they not only shape the nature of the parties and the political systems, but elections affect the behaviours of politicians. The importance of free and fair elections was accentuated in the 2010 parliamentary elections in the democratic republic of Azerbaijan. When their government failed to properly address the issues and complaints of the electoral...

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