What is Democracy

In the first few days after our victorious revolution, we begin to ask ourselves the questions that put off on Feb 11, 2011. What next? We cannot escape from the reality that there is a lot left to do now. We are all uncertain of what lies next but must engage now in the strong dialogue that now ensues.

The first and foremost discussion must be, what really is democracy? Is it only free elections?
Robert Dahl in his book ‘On Democracy’ lists out simply basic institutions necessary for a modern representative democracy.

“1. Elected Officials. Control over government decisions about policy is constitutionally vested in officials elected by citizens. Thus modern, large-scale democratic governments are representative.

2. Free, fair, and frequent elections. Elected officials are chosen in frequent and fairly conducted elections in which coercion is comparatively uncommon.

3. Freedom of expression. Citizens have a right to express themselves without danger of severe punishment on political matters broadly defined, including criticism of officials, the government, the regime, the socioeconomic order, and the prevailing ideology.

4. Access to alternative sources of information. Citizens have a right to seek out alternative and independent sources of information from other citizens, experts, newspapers, magazines, books, telecommunications, and the like. Moreover, alternative sources of information actually exist that are not under the control of the government or any other single political group attempting to influence public political beliefs and attitudes, and these alternative sources are effectively protected by law.

5. Associational autonomy. To achieve their various rights, including those required for the effective operation of democratic political institutions, citizens also have a right to form relatively independent associations or organizations, including independent political parties and interest groups.

6. Inclusive citizenship. No adult permanently residing in the country and subject to its laws can be denied the rights that are available to others and are necessary to the five political institutions just listed. These include the rights to vote in the election of officials in free and fair elections; to run for elective office; to free expression; to form and participate in independent political organizations; to have access to independent sources of information; and rights to other liberties and opportunities that may be necessary to the effective operation fo the political institutions of large-scale democracy.”
Dahl, Robert A. (2000). On Democracy. p. 85-86.

More to come on democracy but its very clear where the country failed before. We didn’t elect our own officials, we didn’t have frequent election or free and fair ones, we didn’t have freedom of expression, nor proper autonomy, or inclusive citizenship. Who were we kidding? Ok, maybe all adults were technically allowed to vote, but of the measly percentage that would show up for elections, many of them were blocked from voting by thugs.

So what now? Well we keep learning and we keep fighting for these basic rights. The rights that will lead us to the proper foundation, a strong beginning to a democratic and free future.
Let us learn from Ukraine, India, Turkey, late comers in the democratic movement. Learn from their mistakes and not settle for anything less than the our fulfilled dreams.


3 thoughts on “What is Democracy

  1. >It's overwhelming the amount of changes that needs to be done almost at once. But it has to be done. Many of my friends didn't even realize that it is their right to elect their governors, not to mention smaller officials.Having said that, I am optimistic because I saw in Tahrir hundreds of thousands who are open to ideas and want nothing short of complete freedom and democracy. I'm sure our first few steps will be in the right direction, and from there we can't but go forward.I'm glad you posted those points!

  2. >I hope so. My own optimism goes up and down every day. Sometimes thinking it cannot fail, and other times kicking myself for thinking so many people could change so fast. I hope that the spirit of the revolution will not fade away but push people to continue the fight for freedom, real freedom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s