SS 3 Civic Education
Topic: Constitutional Democracy
Contents – What is Democracy?
What Is Constitutional Democracy?
Types Of Constitutional Democracy
Merits of constitutional Democracy
Demerits of constitutional Democracy
The key concepts of constitutional democracy
What Is Democracy?
Democracy is government of, by, and for the people. It is government of a community in which all citizens, rather than favored individuals or groups, have the right and opportunity to participate. In a democracy, the people are sovereign. The people are the ultimate source of authority.
In a constitutional democracy the authority of the majority is limited by legal and institutional means so that the rights of individuals and minorities are respected. This is the form of democracy practiced in Germany, Israel, Japan, the United States, and other countries.
What Is Constitutional Democracy?
Constitutional democracy is the type of democracy where powers of the majority are exercised within a frame work of the constitution designed to guarantee the majority right.
In this type of democracy, how the people are to be ruled and governed are stated in the constitution. Constitutional democracy is the type which operates from and according to the constitution of the states.
Types of Constitutional Democracy
- Pluralism: This type of constitutional democracy in which majority of the people are allowed to exercise their views, opinions and idea. It gives room for wide participation of the citizens.
- Republican constitutional democracy: This type of democracy allows for proceedings on issues that concerns state alone. It includes all the people of a state but only on the issues that concern the state alone. Examples of countries that practice this are India, France, and Ireland
- Constitutional Direct: This fashion all its progressions and procedures according to the constitution of the state and allow the direct participation in the political affairs
CHARACTERISTICS AND PRINCIPLES OF CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY
- CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY is the antithesis of arbitrary rule. It is democracy characterized by:
POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY – The people are the ultimate source of the authority of the government which derives its right to govern from their consent.
- MINORITY RIGHTS – Although “the majority rules,” the fundamental rights of individuals in the minority are protected. Minority right: Under constitutional democracy, the rights of the voiceless or the unprivileged are well secured through the constitution.
- LIMITED GOVERNMENT – The powers of government are limited by law and a written or unwritten constitution which those in power obey. Limited Government: The government in constitutional democracy is limited unlike that of other forms of democracy in which government can be dissolved at any time.
- INSTITUTIONAL AND PROCEDURAL LIMITATIONS ON POWERS – There are certain institutional and procedural devices which limit the powers of government. These may include:
- SEPARATED AND SHARED POWERS – Powers are separated among different agencies or branches of government. Each agency or branch has primary responsibility for certain functions such as legislative, executive, and judicial functions. However, each branch also shares these functions with the other branches.
- CHECKS AND BALANCES – Different agencies or branches of government have adequate power to check the powers of other branches. Checks and balances may include the power of judicial review. At the power of courts to declare actions of other branches of government to be contrary to the constitution and therefore null and void.
- DUE PROCESS OF LAW – Individual rights to life, liberty, and property are protected by the guarantee of due process of law.
- LEADERSHIP SUCCESSION THROUGH ELECTIONS – Elections insure that key positions in government will be contested at periodic intervals and that the transfer of governmental authority is accomplished in a peaceful and orderly process.
- Popular Sovereignty – In constitutional democracy, the people are seen as the louder voice of the government of a state, this makes the will of the electorate to prevail.
- Basic freedom – The constitution allows the people to know their rights and ensure that their rights are protected; there is basic freedom of interference from the people in the affairs of government
- Majority rule – This is the rule that gives the majority the chance to express their views and opinions in the affair of the government. Majority rule gives leadership rights to the people and thereby gain the full support and recognition of the masses.
Merits of Constitutional Democracy
The following points below are the merits of constitutional democracy
- There is the rule of law; this promotes equality of persons and help to protect human rights.
- It also helps to encourage constitutionalism; by this means, it helps the government to rule according to the laid down rules, regulation and principle of the state and not to rule anyhow without proper guidance.
- There is legitimacy; constitutional democracy is regarded as legitimate because it has the full support of the people.
- It involves periodic elections which ‘lead in’ another government for a change.
- There is choice of political party i.e. there is opportunity for every for every citizens to belong to political party of their choice and select their leader.
- Citizenship is not dependent on adherence.
Demerits of Constitutional Democracy
- There is separation of powers; constitutional democracy brings about separation of powers among various organs of government
- Corruption and manipulation of election; during the time of electing new leaders through elections, there is usually corruption and manipulation by the electoral bodies and the political parties members which helps to usher in wrong leaders into power.
- Ignorance/ inadequate political education; Most illiterates vote ignorantly due to lack of knowledge on political education.
- Slow decision making; due to the fact that everybody will have to express their views and opinions on any decision the governments wants to make, it makes the decision to be very slow.
- Individuals claim right and obligation which most times make them to disrespect those in power.
- Too expensive; constitutional democracy involves so many people in carrying out its affairs, thereby becoming too expensive to run.
- Manipulation by few; constitutional democracy is always manipulated by some few citizens who have vocal skills and abilities in expressing views and opinions.
Key Concepts of Constitutional Democracy
Some of these key concepts are
- History of the people: In any good and acceptable constitutional democracy, the constitution must reflect the history of the people, the history of the people must be put into consideration.
- Freedom of the press: The press, radio, television, newspaper and other social media are means by which citizens express their views i.e. people are free to write and make reports on governmental issues.
- Convention: Constitutional democracy brings out convention through which the government follows, through the conventions skills are acquired and disseminated.
- Periodic election: Free and fair election is one of the major key concepts of constitutional democracy because it allows for change in government.
- The rights of citizens: another key is the right of citizens; their rights must be respected and protected.
- Supremacy of the constitution: Under the constitutional democracy, the constitution is supreme and supersedes every other consideration in a constitutional democracy.
Test and Exercise
- The word supremacy of the constitution means (a) The constitution is a God (b) The constitution supersedes every other consideration (c) the constitution is not important (d) the constitution has nothing to do in a constitutional democracy. ans (b)
- One advantage of constitutional democracy is (a) there is separation of powers (b) decision making is slow (c) there is the rule of law (d) there can be corruption. ans (c)
- All of the following are advantages of constitutional democracy except (a) there is rule of law (b) there is separation of powers (c) it encourages constitutionalism (d) there is choice of political leadership. ans (b)
- All the following are key concept of the constitutional democracy except (a) history of the people (b) the rule of law (c) all of the above (d) freedom of the press. ans (c)
- One of the major demerit of constitutional democracy is ( a) the rule of law (b) decision making is slow (c) choice of political party (d) legitimacy. ans (b)