Participation is the essence of democracy Discuss

For many years and even centuries one of the main discussions that have been very dominant is the ‘right to vote. ’ The right to vote is a phrase that has been in headlines for many centuries to give countries more of a democracy. The United States, Women across the world and many minorities had to fight and millions died in the process to fight for their right to vote. However, is voting the essence of democracy or is voting an overrated task? Is participation of the people needed to make a democracy?

Democracy means the right to vote, it doesn’t mean that you have to vote, if no one votes then it’s a democracy because it shows that no one are interest on how the country is ran so the previous government that was voted by the people, will carry on making the decision. In the United Kingdom, if you are over the age of 18 and you do not have a criminal record, you are allowed to vote. If you are ill and you want someone else to vote on your behalf, that vote will be rejected. The term democracy does not have a specific definition but there are elements that create a democracy.

A simple way to phrase democracy is a rule of the people or power to the people. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” this is a famous quote that former President of the United States Abraham Lincoln defined democracy. There are four main types of democracies: Direct, Liberal, Representative and Pluralist. Direct Democracy is when policies are directly decided on by the vote of the people. The term direct democracy originated in Athens of the 40,000 free slaves in the 5th Century. The women and current slaves were excluded.

Switzerland has adopted Participatory democracy which is a type of direct democracy. The citizens have more participation in referendums and are able to be more involved in politics. However, there are certain referendums and policies that are quite complex and many people will just vote without research or consideration on how it might affect them. Also, it is not a representative of the whole country if only a few people vote just because they understand the policy and the other high percentage don’t. This will discourage people to go and put in their vote.

Representative Democracy- for this type of democracy to take place, people who are eligible to vote will vote for someone who is running to become a member of parliament (E. g. Member of Parliament) to represent their views in government. The United Kingdom is an example of a representative democracy because we have to vote on who we want to represent us in Parliament. Liberal Democracy incorporates free, fair and competitive elections with the importance of specific key rights and key responsibilities. In liberal democracies they extend the right to vote amongst citizens.

This also means that the freedom of free speech is granted. Many Liberal democracies are incorporated with other democracies such as the UK is seen to be as a liberal democracy and a representative democracy. Pluralist Democracy promotes participation that allows free and fair competition in interest. In pluralist democracies there will be a very high range of competing interest such as economy and environment. Political participation is a process where citizens of a country get involved in political activities.

Milbrath and Goel(1977) discovered that there are three types of political participants; the gladiators who are the small percentage of keen participants, the spectators who vote and may be interested in specific issues but may limit their participation and the ampathetic are those who do not particularly care and do not participate at all. They also claimed that most people voted sporadically. There are many types of participations such as; becoming a member of a political party, protests, petitions, boycotting, being an MP, debates and joining a pressure groups.

Edmund Burke a famous Irish political philosopher argued that participation is the key. He used a metaphor saying said "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ” the government represent evils and the good men represent the citizens who are allowed to vote. To interpret what Burke was saying, is that if citizens leave their trust into the governments’ hand, then evil will prevail. What he is trying to promote is a fairer world but with the input of the people.

Burke’s main influences in life were religion as both of his parents were strong believers. Burke wanted to widen out the political participation as he wanted to defend the independence of the House of Commons as he opposed the King George III attempts to regain some of the prerogatives that the monarchy had lost in the Glorious Revolution of 1689. (UK Political, General Election Turnout 1945-2010) As you can see from this graph, the turnout has dropped down significantly. The main reason is disenchantment.

Many voters lose faith and trust in those who are in government. As you can analyse in 1950 it was the highest turnout. The Second World War finished 5 years before and the people wanted to be in a society where they were confortable and safe. Though there has been a few upwards growth for example in 1979 when the first female was running to be Prime Minister and Margarat Thatcher won the peoples vote. The biggest dip was between 1997 and 2007. The Electoral Voter Commission stated that the reason why the turnout was a lot of 18-24 year olds did not vote.

However, when Tony Blair was in power, he was seen as ‘one of the best Prime Minister’ in history. Though people questioned the credibility of this election due to the amount votes and it was said that it didn’t represent the whole population, it was still a democracy because a democracy is the right to vote. You do not need to vote because it is your choice. We can see that from 2001 to 2010 there has been an upward trend in the amount of votes. The main reason for this is because of the Iraq war and a large amount of the population had an opinion on it.

Also in 2010 it was the middle of the world recession, people were getting into financial troubles and wanted a change of government to help them through the recession, and this is why the Conservatives got in. The Conservatives were telling the public what they wanted to hear and by the participants of them, they were able to be in office. Participation was definitely important for democracy to take place. In Zimbabwe, the right to vote is important but the right to vote is not an option.

In Zimbabwe, many people are killed and many fight for survival. Mugabe has been in power for 32 years as President and Prime Minister. For many years, Zimbabweans are risking their lives to get a better life in South Africa because many people died due to the ruling of Mugabe. Democracy is definitely not practised in the country and the citizens do not vote for what they believe in and participation is not a virtue. Psephology has said voters vote to achieve their goals, however, it is not a choice in Zimbabwe.