Advantages and Disadvantages of Democracy
Definition of Democracy
Democracy means government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The term “democracy” is derived from two Greek words, “demos” meaning “people” and “Kratia” meaning “‘rule by’ or government”. Democracy therefore signifies a government set up by the whole people, run and directed by the whole people for the benefit of the whole people.
Advantages of Democracy – Democratic System of Government
Democracy has succeeded in many countries and it is perhaps the best form of government. Yet, it has been successful largely because of the reasons given below;
- Democracy allows for peaceful change of government.
- It gives the people opportunity to decide who should govern them.
- Democracy provides for a system of recall of elected representatives or impeachment of chief executives.
- Democracy is not just about electoral politics and elections but goes beyond these mundane things to include good governance and the political empowerment of the people to participate at all levels of social life, from the neighborhood, community and village level to the state and national levels.
- Democracy is a dynamic process in the sense that it grows and develops and can take several forms. In the words of Eskor Toyo, “Democracy” it’s not like a pebble which we find on the beach finished and rigid in shape and content and remaining the same apparently for eternity. It is rather like a tree. It develops and its fruits depend on its spaces and state of development.
- Democracy promotes human rights including political, economic, social, cultural and citizenship rights. Where, for example, an individual cannot secure employment in the western liberal democracies, there is a social security, which gives him some money to take care of his basic needs. The social security system is the bedrock of western democracy.
- As human beings do not like being ordered or commanded about, democracy tallies with human nature.
- There is a free rein of cooperation and compromise in democracy.
- Democracy provides for peaceful resolution of conflicts.
- The practical exercise of freedom and responsibility which a democracy gives to the citizens is an essential part of their training in full citizenship.
- Democracy promotes social and economic development as lack of freedom may mean lack of progress. Many of the great inventions and discoveries are made by people who opposed the accepted ideas of their time or the prevailing social order.
Disadvantages of Democracy
Democracy is not without its own problems. The commonest ones include the following.
- It may be difficult to form a government especially in a parliamentary system of government where there are so many political parties such that no single party can secure a comfortable majority. Such a deadlock happened in Nigeria after the federal elections of December 1964 in which no single party was able to command a majority in the Federal House of Representatives. The then President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was initially reluctant to call on Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister and leader of the Northern People’s Congress in parliament to form a government. As a result, Nigeria was virtually without a government for 3 days until good sense prevailed and Tafawa Balewa was asked to form a government.
- The government may abuse the rights of the people especially when it becomes over sensitive to criticism. For example, Alhaji Abdulrahman Shugaba, the leader of the Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP) in Borno State was deported to Chad Republic because of his opposition to the NPN Federal Government. The decision was later reversed by a court of law.
- The people too may take their freedom for granted and speak or write things that may threaten the continued existence of the State. In some cases, trade unions may repeatedly called strikes without adequate justification while the press may give a false picture of the state of affairs in the country.
- Social vices like corruption, inefficiency and bureaucratic stagnation may thrive under a democratic government. In Nigeria’s Fourth Republic for example, it is difficult to convict top government officials accused of misappropriating public funds partly because of gaps in the law and constitutional provisions such as immunity which are usually exploited by defence counsel and partly because of the need to follow due process. By 2012, none of the former governors and ministers indicted for corruption since 2007 has been diligently prosecuted or convicted. The only exception is the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori who escaped justice in Nigeria but ended up being sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for money laundering by London Court in April, 2012.
- History has shown that people are sometimes unprepared to compromise on matters which they regard as fundamental. They have sometimes rather resorted to force and impose their views on society.
- Political democracy cannot function well in a country which widespread poverty and incessant disagreements between groups.
- Since the wealth and resources of society are mainly owned and controlled by a few in Liberia democratic states, it follows that these few rich people will dominate and control the government and there is therefore no real freedom and democracy for the poor .
- In many developing countries, democracy is simply about elections and electoral politics and little emphasis is placed on the welfare of the people.
- The elections conducted in many young democracies are usually out of the control of the people.
- Democracy may lead to oligarchy.