DIRECT DEMOCRACY A BETTER ALTERNATIVE TO INDIRECT DEMOCRACY

Authored By:

Rohit Raj

B.A.LLB, Lloyd law college

Co-Authored By:

Rashmi Chaubey

B.A.LLB, Lloyd law college


Background

First of all, Democracy comes from two Greek words: “Demos” (the people) and “kratia” (Power of Authority), and it was introduced in the year 507 B.C. by the Athenian leader Cleisthenes (Ancient Greek Democracy, History.com Editors, 23rd August, 2018). Ironically it was foreseen that the Athenian who is also called as founder of democracy where most of the posts were fulfilled by the system of a draw of lots, not by the system of election. Democracy is a form of government that gives power to the People or just we can say that Democracy is a form of government in which common people hold the Political Power and can rule either directly or through their elected representative who used to represent them and their problems on behalf of common people. The term ‘Democracy’ is not mentioned in the Declaration of Independence said by the people that it is mentioned in the US constitution.

If we look how the term ‘Democracy’ evolves or originated then we have to look in the history and according to the history, Greeks are the first to profess and practice Democratic system and Particularly ‘Direct Democracy’, a system in which People involves or having a direct and active participation in democratic decision making. The Greek Democracy is known to be the first Democracy in the world and has a three separate division made to it for a particular purpose. The ekklesia (Democracy, the solution to the political dilemma? Mikael Nordfors and Loke Hagberg), a sovereign governing body that wrote laws and dictated foreign policy; the boule (Democracy, the solution to the political dilemma? Mikael Nordfors and Loke Hagberg), a council of representatives from the ten Athenian tribes and the dikasteria, the popular courts in which citizens argued cases before a group of lottery-selected jurors (Ancient Greek Democracy, History.com Editors, 23rd August, 2018). Greek democracy introduces direct democracy but it survives only for 2 century and the Greek system of direct democracy leads to the evolution of representative democracy across the globe. And this way, the evolution of both types of democracy comes forward all over the world. Indirect democracy is a result of the Greek system of direct democracy and if we see to its meaning it means that type of democracy in which a representative is being selected by the people who address and put down before the government their problem on their behalf. And the Greek system paves way or leads to the evolution of both Direct as well as Indirect Democracy.

Direct Democracy a Better Alternative: Arguments

During the last two to three centuries debate has unfolded for and against direct and indirect democracy. It has been proved from the evidence that Direct Democracy is more democratic than the representative democracy as people in Direct democracy involves in the decision making and faces the issue and analyses the situation closely. A benefit in the case of Direct Democracy is that the people engaged themselves in the decision making as itself cleared above due to which all people know each other argument related to that topic and it is easy for them to interpret their decision and cope up with it the decision of the others. But this knowledge of arguments of each other and involvement of all the people sometimes causes a lot of chaos and problem in understanding and misses out the main contention of a majority of people.

Whereas, If we take in the case of Indirect Democracy than there is not a single involvement of people in the decision making and people are not himself closely related to the issue due to which they were not able to analyze the issue properly. Yet they transmit their problem to the government through their representative which they have selected through their vote. And a lot of time this way of transmitting their problems to the government through their elected representative and this helps in preventing chaos and problem in understanding the problem of mass people.

In relation to the Direct Democracy, the people self-involvement in the decision making and issue dealing makes the government’s work easy in dealing with the various problems of their citizens and also in a democracy it is presumed that all adult citizens are the best judge of his or her own good or interest (Direct and Representative Democracy- Supplementing, not excluding each other, Palle Svensson.). The rules made in direct democracy are correspondence to the citizens as they themselves involve in the rule and decision making so there is no point of conflict and misunderstanding.

Direct democracy a better alternative to the indirect democracy and the reason behind is that the according to the normative point of view as well as empirical point of view, Better the correspondence between the opinion of the different people and the policies frame, then it will be easier to get accepted that policies by all the people and also be followed and a smaller risk of chaos and misunderstanding. The higher the degree of the correspondence of public opinion and the policies and the decisions, the lesser will be resistance and reluctance. And, the citizens in Direct democracy feels more like a free entity and flows without any negative restriction, and also there is no coercion by the superior party on people and totally free from any type of blackmail, corruption because everything is in the hand of the people.

A Survey was conducted by the 38-nation Few Research centre finds that there is a lot of reason behind the calmness as well as concern in respect to the democracy’s future that what type of democracy will exist in the whole of the world. All the countries will have direct democracy or Indirect democracy or partially both this is the main concern of all the government and also of people. Citizens in the direct democracy show more commitment towards the policy-making and rule framing than in the case of Indirect democracy where policymaking and rule framing activities all were being separated by the common people and the elected representative works on behalf of that common people. And, a major point which demarcates between these both type of democracy and establishing that Direct democracy a better alternative to the Indirect democracy is that in Indirect democracy or Representative democracy there is always been a suspicion that the elected representative has an eye over opportunities for their own benefit not in the interest of people by whom he is appointed which is totally found absent in the case of Direct democracy because there is no representative and people themselves involved in decision making.

Critical Analysis of Direct and Indirect Democracy

A plethora of arguments were put forward in support of direct democracy which shows that Direct democracy is a better alternative to Indirect democracy. As, in Indirect democracy, a representative is involved which address the question and problems of common people who elected him due to which a lot of time is being wasted in Indirect democracy in solving even a simple problem and in the case of complex matter, series of months being wasted on a single matter. Citizens feel less committed and show less dedication and always feel bound by the elected representative that what the elected representative says to do they have to follow in order to meet their problems and direct democracy always contributed by the voluntary involvement and as themselves involved in the decision and policy-making acceptance is done without any forceful binding. This shows that in these aspects also Direct Democracy is a better alternative to Indirect Democracy. When citizens have themselves involved in the decision making they feel a larger loyalty to the decision and have belief on it and stronger duty to comply with the decision making whether they were on either side i.e. winning side or losing side. And this loyalty to the decision and comply with the decision brings political stability and efficiency and effectiveness in the government machinery.

And as above it is mentioned that loyalty to the decision and complies with the decision brings Political Stability and this is because fewer citizens criticize the policies and rules or any new initiative take as they themselves involve in the decision making so there is no existence of critics. Another statement made in favour of Direct democracy to prove that Direct democracy is a better alternative to Indirect democracy. Direct involvement of people in the Political system makes the people able to understand the interior and exterior framing and working of Direct democracy and also helps in understanding the possibilities and limitations of political decision and Political machinery. This kind of involvement of People in the Political system helps in the over-all acceptance of Political decisions without any resistance which makes the work be time-efficient and whole political system be effective and efficient which is totally lacking in the case of Indirect democracy and this demarcation puts Direct democracy over the Indirect democracy.

Another argument made in favour of Direct democracy which is also one of the arguments commonly made by all the countries which have a system of direct democracy is that in Direct democracy, there is transparency and openness which is always considered as an important element of any society or any system for the smooth and better functioning and this is all possible because of the direct participation and absence of any mediator. When a Political issue or any political problem is being checked or examined before the decision in the openness and transparent system then every people knows the issue and the related problems with that issue and this helps in combating the near future changes in the decision or any change easily without a surprise or shock for anyone.

Direct Democracy Prevailing in Specific Countries

If we look at the countries in which Direct democracy is also prevailing nowadays then the only exception of this is Switzerland which two Swiss cantons called Glarus and Appenzell- Innerhodenn use only direct democracy and to pass any law, majority of people is needed and this is considered as an exception where direct democracy is prevalent from the very beginning and taken as an excellent example of direct democracy. Many countries are on the list which is having direct democracy and it can be seen by the direct democracy Index.

Here is the list of some of the countries which are ranked top in direct democracy index --

  • Afghanistan

  • Albania

  • Argentina

  • Armenia

  • Belgium

  • Brazil

  • Chile

  • Luxembourg

  • Maldives

  • Paraguay

  • Romania

Determinants of Democracy in accordance with Variables

We are continuously talking about the democracy and its types, where direct democracy is currently Prevailing and the arguments made in support of Direct democracy to put Direct democracy over Indirect Democracy. Now the determinant of democracy is going to be proved with the help of 3 variables.

Economic and Demographic Variables

Economic theory and Demographics are somehow interconnected with Democracy. Expansion of democracy promotes directly or indirectly the rich to poor income distribution and may increase the strength of the various groups. It is evident that democratization leads to better economic growth and also due to democratization, the demographic area is so much influenced and paves the way to a better demographic.

Institutional Variables

Institutional arrangement affects the binding force of checks and balances and therefore, the accountability of the Political system. A central feature is that in Presidential regimes effective decision-making is being divided among different political leaders for effective decision making and all the political leaders will separately be accountable.

Cultural Variables

The relationship between democracy and the cultural is always been highlighted and the relation of these both is not a new one, it is from the time of Lipset (1959). In culture, Lipset includes all things which usually come under Culture and also education which is the main focus from the perspective of Lipset. An educated person entails better chances for democracy and progress of the political system and political machinery. This relation of culture and democracy is also considered essential as always Education helps the people to understand Politics which helps in Political stability.

Demarcation of Direct and Indirect Democracy

As in the introduction Part, Explanation of Direct and Indirect democracy has been mentioned as Direct democracy is a form of Political system in which People themselves involves in the Political decision making or policy initiatives whereas, Direct democracy is a form of Political system in which People are not themselves involved in Political decision making or in Political machinery instead of that People elect their representative which address the issues of the common people and work for them. When there’s arises question demarcation of both types of democracy then we see that Formal and Terminological classification of direct democracy and Indirect democracy was achieved in the 20th century and there was no classification between these two earlier than the Twentieth Century. If we look to the democracy at the early stage and compare with the current scenario democracy situation there is also division like the ekklesia, and it is quite similar but these assemblies do not consist of all citizens and this division now restricted only to the male members which are totally changed from the earlier period division. This clearly shows that the early societies, while practising direct democracy in decision making they adopt a selective approach at that time which is a major difference we found between the democracy of that time and democracy of the current scenario.

Direct democracy is the first one to have emerged as a type of Democracy and this one paves the way to the emergence of Indirect democracy. A major point which separates and differentiate between these two is that the Direct democracy is suitable and prevalent in small population country whereas, Indirect democracy is suitable and prevalent in the countries whose population size is necessary and this is the reason not a single large population country is on the Direct democracy Index. Another point or we can say argument which differentiates between both the type of Democracy is that in the context of Direct democracy, the legislation is formed by the entire community whereas, in the context of Indirect democracy, the legislation is formed by the elected representative of the people which become the member of the legislature.

Direct Democracy: Positive People Power or Weapon of Demolition

Earlier once a time, Direct democracy is considered as an unloved child and loneliness one which is not being accepted by the People but some of the agency and the Political scientists with the continuous teaching and promotion helps in developing of direct democracy which finally paves to the acceptance of Direct democracy by the People. Instead of this many Political scientists and researcher or thinker is not comfortable with the Direct democracy acceptance and blaming Direct democracy as a reason for the crisis condition of California, Insolvency, and Political Paralysis in California. But the question here arises is that whether the Direct democracy is at fault for the crisis, Insolvency, and Political Paralysis?

But when the research is done on this question and the researcher meets with the critics, scholars, proponents, reformers, practitioners in American states of California, Arizona, and Oregon. Then what the researcher finds and came to know after 360 degrees of tour and analysis is totally surprising for everyone and the truth which comes about the direct democracy is much more complex, quite more interesting and instructive rather than simplistic press account which would lead anyone to believe.

According to a report it came to know, that there are 3 main direct democracy tools that were used in the American west are known as—Citizen’s initiative, referendum, and recall.

  • The citizen’s initiative enacts or approves new legislation, either regular statutory law or a constitutional amendment.

  • The referendum repeals an existing law.

  • The recall removes elected officials before the end of their term.

These three direct democracy tools considered as one of the most important ones in the researcher’s research which they found and which is also surprising for many but these all the three tools of Direct democracy are very much helpful in better governance and Political stability in Direct democracy.

There is a continuous debate ongoing between researchers and philosophers whether Direct democracy is a risk to the whole economy and Political system. The arguments made by different political thinkers and researchers that the unlimited power in the hands of common people without a suitable restriction on that even leads to the decline of the economy and Political thinker and they take a decision which suits according to them even that decision is harmful and it puts the economy at a risk. But some political thinkers and researchers or philosophers made an argument that this power of self-making decision and knowing all other’s problems helps in positive power and also helps in binding people in unity. So it’s difficult for anyone to decide whether Direct democracy is a Positive people power or weapon of demolition.

Switzerland: Most Active Nation with Direct Democracy

As we know that Switzerland is the sole nation which has perfect direct democracy and known for its system of democracy and known as direct democracy, it frames a legal framework in which all the citizens of that country over the age of 18 eligible to vote and decide how will the country run. If we look at some of the facts of the Switzerland Political system then it has a population of 8.2 million people and the fundamental principle which exits in their political system is of taking part by all the citizens in decision-making and policy framing except the women who have no right to vote until 1971 and even 1991 except one canton.

Power to the People

If we look at the powers granted to the people of Switzerland in the Direct democracy, then we first see that when Parliament passes new legislation and amendments to existing legislation, then citizens have right to go for a referendum and goes against some of the international treaties and after calling referendum by the citizens, that law for which referendum called out, will not be passed or the amendment can’t be possible. And it is not such an easy task to go for the referendum because to pass the referendum either eight cantons must request or 50,000 signature from eligible voters should be collected to pass the referendum and if the majority people sign then the law will be passed or the current legislation will be amended and if not then the existing legislation will exist. This level of power has been granted to Switzerland’s people and this is the reason why Switzerland considered the most active sole nation with Direct Democracy.

Comparison of Direct Democracy of Different states

Just above we have discussed what is the system and power in the hands of people of Switzerland now we will compare direct democracy functioning in 3 states of Switzerland which clear the doubt of comparison and the question arises in the mind of people. For comparison of direct democracy of different states, two things should be looked after and stand out. Direct democracy is a political tool that shows the Political culture and design of law governing direct democracy has an essential influence on the outcomes received.

In California, the Majority of People believe that Public policy decisions made by voters through the initiative process by involving themselves in decision making are far better than the decision made by the elected representative. In California, a ballot proposition can be a referendum process that is submitted directly to the electorate for the process of direct decision. Here for any constitutional amendment, the legislature place proposal for the amendment as a referendum and if the referendum is approved under the given guidelines that 50,000 eligible voters should sign in the favour then there will be an amendment in the law and in case referendum does not get approval by the majority then the existing law will prevail.

If we talk in the context of Arizona and the situation of Direct democracy in Arizona is that it allows the people to vote directly without any intermediaries on any law or any amendment of the state constitution and also people have been granted the power to remove any elected officials from their office if they feel necessary. In Arizona having direct democracy gives common people immense power. The initiative allows the citizen to make laws, rules, and regulations without any legislature.

Oregon which is one of the states of the United States which has also direct democracy in the form of referendum and initiative and these both known as the Oregon system. A small population state controlled by one political party paves the way to direct democracy. Unable to achieve their target and goal set by them through the help of the legislature, political party, elected representative forces towards the direct democracy adoption. Its small population also allows the grassroots campaign to succeed as they move towards involving themselves into direct participation in the Political system to control the lawmaking.

Conclusion

Democracy is in itself found to be most difficult to be established by the Athenians and for the establishment, they engaged in “economic struggle”. A country will be a well defined democratic if people of that country were free to express their views and share their opinion freely for the country’s development.

Direct democracy and Representative democracy both have some pros and cons but which will prevail it will depend on the country that which type of country is regulating which form of democracy. Hence, With this article, it is cleared that Indirect democracy is not a separate form of democracy. Direct democracy paves the way to the Indirect democracy and both fits to different countries on the basis of geographical area and many other factors.

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