Watching the events in Egypt with the deposal of President Morsi and the chaos and deaths (though less than that which occurred during the overthrow of the last President) I’ve been thinking about “What Does Democracy Really Mean?” Especially with the different systems I’ve seen around the world.
Strangely people don’t seem to have an in depth view except for democracy is good and requires the people to vote. If that is so why did we experience president’s like Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Batista (Cuba), Hitler (Germany) or the corrupt Government’s in Central and South America, or Asia or even illegal of unethical tactics by USA governments (Nixon & Johnson)? Plus the likely futures of Iraq and Afghanistan not to mention Syria.
All of these situations started with elections. Now obviously later voting was rigged and individuals intimated or in the USA case law enforcement used against opponents under National Security concerns, but it didn’t start this way it started with voting.
So voting can’t be the only component to a working democracy. People also talk about the “will of the majority” but can’t that also be about the rule of the mob. Did the majority rule help out in Serbia or Rwanda? So is the will of the majority what democracy is only trying to achieve?
I keep hearing in Australia about the silent majority, I wish they were silent a little more especially when they speak against minority groups like gays and lesbians, refugees or women’s issues and wanting to impose there views.
I feel that the best countries and systems don’t just have voting and majority rules as their core. To me it is about balancing and restricting the power of the government as heavily as possible. It’s about seeing leadership of a country has a heavy (and temporary) burden not a prize that your followers blindly barrack for (like football supporters on a Saturday).
So I would think the ideal system is trying to be inclusive as possible, respect the rights of all as long as they don’t impose on others, and have strong institutions and limits on power.
So my definition of democracy would probably need the following characteristics to succeed;
1) Regular voting but with electorates, boundaries and eligibility having nothing to do with political parties – panel of experts overseen by Court.
2) Fixed terms with the government only able to be sacked by a High / Supreme Court or 2/3rds majority of Parliament (no confidence motion for early election)
3) Two Houses of Parliament with different voting systems. One of these houses’ systems should try to ensure minority representation and be next to impossible for one party to control (let’s call it the house of review)
4) Independent Judiciary. Judges can not be linked to any political party. The highest court recommends all appointments to Parliament and can only be accepted if Government and Opposition agree. Knocked backed appointments must be provided with the exceptional reasons for why this occurred.
5) Military can not be used against population. They can be used to built or rebuilt areas hit by disasters but can not use weapons against citizens.
6) Police force is independent of government. While Police Command need to provide reports on operational matters to Minister / Secretary they can only be sacked by majority in House of Parliament (the review house the ideally has not one party in control) or by High / Supreme Court. Police must always follow court rulings (see Zimbabwe for what happens when not followed).
7) President / Prime Minister / Ministers / Secretaries can’t hold office for more than 8 consecutive years and can not return to office for 6 years after 8 year maximum term.
8) Electoral Commission must be independent. No one can work for them if they have e re been a member of a political party or donated money to a party. Has the power to investigate all party donations and all donations must provide contact details of individual who approved payment. Parties fined 10 times amount if donations that can’t be tracked to Australian citizens.
9) Restricted Party Funding and Advertising. No ‘for profit’ organisations can donate to parties, for fairness to businesses this includes unions. Public provide funding based on votes with a heavy weighting to smaller number of votes so small parties can operate. All TV and multi media ads must be approved by Electoral Commission which will check accuracy and who is paying. No ads on any media type in last week of campaign. Public boardcaster to provide one free 30 minute window to each party with more than 5% of vote at last election
10) Use of experts. Every 8 years an expert committee must report on different matters of importance. Lets say Health, Education, Environment, and Infrastructure. You could break these four issues into two year slots. These reports will be delivered to public from which Government and Opposition can than debate. No party members allowed on committee. Committee members chosen by Chancellors of Universities with Prime Minister / President and Opposition leader confirming.
11) Education. Must be free or near free to everyone to Year 10. High performing students free to end of under Graduate degree (or trade), others pay a reduced amount.
I know what I suggest is a lot but just giving people the vote an expecting everything to work just won’t. I touched on some Government policies above but I think there are more to have a good Government. The above is about having an informed electorate where minorities are protected to help us all get alone.
We keep trying systems like dictatorships, communism and democracy with one common aspect centralised power but the results aren’t that promising, maybe lets try minimising the power of the head of government, respect experts and education, and see what happens.