Theme : Governance
GS - 2
Time to consider the concept of Direct Democracy in order to strengthen democracies across the world and put power back in the hands of the people instead of a few powerful leaders.
In contrast to indirect or representative democracy, direct democracy, often known as pure democracy, involves citizens directly participating in democratic decision-making. The word is also occasionally applied to the process of directly electing representatives rather than indirectly through an elected body like an electoral college.
TABLE OF CONTENT
- What is Direct Democracy?
- Devices of Direct Democracy
- Various Global Initiatives
- Rights for All
- Rationale behind a Referendum ?
- Criticisms Against Referendums
Context : Time to consider the concept of Direct Democracy in order to strengthen democracies across the world and put power back in the hands of the people instead of a few powerful leaders.
What is Direct Democracy?
- In contrast to indirect or representative democracy, direct democracy, often known as pure democracy, involves citizens directly participating in democratic decision-making. The word is also occasionally applied to the process of directly electing representatives rather than indirectly through an elected body like an electoral college.
- Direct democracy devices include citizen assemblies, referendums, and initiatives, in which voters vote on issues rather than politicians or parties.
- Although direct democracy can be viewed as a full-fledged system of political institutions, it is more commonly associated with certain decision-making institutions within a larger system of representational democracy in modern times.
- A popular device called Referendums gives the power to citizens to vote on a question or particular topic. The procedure might vary within countries, though, the objective of the process remains the same.
- The Indian Constitution does not allow referendums and there is no provision for it. But, a referendum on abolishing the monarchy was held in Sikkim and it resulted in the country becoming an Indian state.
Devices of Direct Democracy :
Direct democracy has 4 devices - Referendum, Initiative, Recall and Plebiscite:
- Referendum - procedure in which a proposed legislation is referred to the electorate for acceptance through direct voting.
- Initiative - method by means of which the people can propose a bill to the legislature for enactment.
- Recall - way for voters to remove a representative or an officer before the expiry of his/her term, when he fails to discharge his duties properly.
- Plebiscite - method of obtaining the opinion of people on any issue of public importance. It is generally used to solve territorial disputes.
Various Global Initiatives :
- “2022 Resilient Democracies Statement” — signed recently by the G7 and four invited guests — was a recognition of the global decline in the institution of democracy. The idea behind the document is to tell the errant democracies of the world to “guard the freedom of expression and opinion, an affirmation of commitment to the very idea of democracy and a move towards opposing oppression and violence”.
- US President Joe Biden also started a D-10 (Democracy 10) Strategy Forum- an initiative to maintain a "rules-based democratic order" under the leadership of ten "leading democracies". The "D-10" meeting represents over 60% of the people living in democracies around the world.
- This is in opposition to the growing number of autocracies and expanding non-democratic systems of governments across the world, from Russia, China and Myanmar to Iran, Belarus etc.
Rights for All :
- Rights prevail only when they become relevant to the needs of the local communities especially through addressing important concerns such as impunity for atrocities, predicaments of free speech in the age of social media, ingrained exploitations of women’s rights, and violence against the marginalized.
- As B.R. Ambedkar in 1949 explained, “…political democracy cannot last unless it lies at the base of its social democracy…. in politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality... We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment....”
- Global transformist thought in the areas of social justice, universal human rights, rule of law, global anti-war movements and transnational amity remains an aspiration and a motivating dynamism behind all liberatory movements. It is the power of the people to act directly, stand up collectively before the state apparatus in the hope that they would overcome the challenges facing humanity.
Rationale behind a Referendum ?
- From a political perspective, referendums are an ultimate tool for the expression of direct democracy, but in modern times, most referendums have to be understood in the perspective of representative democracy.
- They tend to be used quite selectively, covering issues such as changes in voting systems, or even complete secession from a national union. There are times when a failure or the success of a referendum have led to a surge in autonomy movements.
Criticisms Against Referendums :
- Populist Aspect: It has been argued that voters in a referendum are more likely to be driven by transient whims than by careful deliberation, or that they are not sufficiently informed to make decisions on complicated or technical issues. Also, voters might be swayed by propaganda, strong personalities, intimidation, and expensive advertising campaigns. An example of such instances is the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy.
- Closed questions and the separability problem: Some critics of the referendum attack the use of closed questions. A difficulty called the separability problem can plague a referendum on two or more issues.
- Undue limitations on regular government power: Several commentators have noted that the use of citizens’ initiatives to amend constitutions has so tied the government to a jumble of popular demands as to render the government unworkable. A similar problem also arises when elected governments accumulate excessive debts. That can severely reduce the effective margin for later governments.