The word democracy is derived from Greek word “dēmokratía” where Demos stands for ‘people’, and Kratos stands for ‘rule’. In short, democracy means ‘rule of people’, or a form of government where people are the ultimate authority.
The most famed quotation on democracy comes from the 16th US President Abraham Lincoln which was a part of his remarkable speech at the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863. Lincoln was quoted saying, ‘that these dead shall not have died in vain– that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth’.
Lincoln’s view on democratic from of governance which was based on the very idea of three fundamentals, ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people was widely regarded as the soul of democracy. The concept of democracy is quite new in comparison to other forms of governments such as monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, democracy, theocracy, and tyranny.
The earliest historic evidence shows that democracy was practiced amongst small communities of herders, hunters, and gathers. Later on, it came into prominence after thousands of years in Athens, Greece under the rule of Cleisthenes (507 BCE) which lasted for more than two centuries. Today, democratic form of government exists in 167 nations.
As per the Economist Intelligence Unit’s report on state of democracy (2021), Norway stands on the top-most rank above New Zealand at the second, and Finland at third position. Meanwhile, India being the largest democratic nation managed to find a place at 46th position in the ranking list. The idea of democracy is seldom realised by the governments, and understood by its stakeholders (public). In a democratic form of government participation in politics is highly essential people can do it by simply exercising their rights to vote.
Democracy is widely divided into three broad categories namely participatory, pluralist and elite democracy. In participatory model of democracy citizens have the power to decide directly on policy and politicians are responsible for implementation of those policies, meanwhile in pluralist governance model the politics is not dominated by any one political group but organised groups participate against each other. The elite democracy is different from other categories under this model of democracy, a small group of influential, educated, and powerful people control the political scenario.
The International Day of Democracy was established by United Nations in 2007 through a resolution passed in the UN General Assembly. The day was first observed on 15th of September 2008 with an idea of encouraging governments to strengthen and consolidate democracy. The parliamentarians worldwide are also advised by the UN to promote, and educate people on the fundamentals of democracy by organising events, workshops, and other promotional activities.
A democratic form of government is only successful when there is active participation of public, it maybe direct or indirect in nature. One of the most famous saying by Plato summarizes the entire idea of successful democracy in brief.
“One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
(By Anirbaan Hritiq)