Advantages and Disadvantages of Representative Government
Representative government refers to a government where the people participate in choosing through periodic, free and fair elections, those that would govern them. It is a democratic government in which the citizens elect representatives who act as their agents in law making and implementation.
Merits of Representative Government
Representative government has the following advantages:
- Establishment of democracy: Representative government affords citizens the opportunity of voting in the political parties and candidates of their choice during elections.
- Accountability: Representative government helps to ensure that people’s representatives are accountable, responsive and responsible to the electorate.
- Rule of law: This system of government tends to uphold the rule of law and guarantee fundamental human rights more than other systems.
- It confers legitimacy on the government: As such, the government has the right to issue orders and be obeyed.
- The system gives the people confidence and a sense of belonging since the people are indirectly governing themselves.
- Political leaders attempt to satisfy the demands of the people.
- It makes the government accountable and responsible to the people.
- Public opinion is an important measurement of the govemment’s responsiveness to the wishes and aspirations of the people.
Demerits of Representative Government
Although representative government is most desirable in a modern state, it has certain drawbacks, which tend to call its relevance to question.
- Politicians may manipulate the electoral process to suit their needs. One way by which the will of the people is subverted by politicians, especially in developing states, is by the rigging of elections.
- Where political institutions are not well developed to check the excesses of the government, there may be a dictatorship.
- The representatives may show more concern for their own interest than that of the people. In many democratic state, for example, elected political leaders who often claim to represent the interest of the people have seldom found it necessary to promote the introduction of comprehensive welfare programmes like unemployment benefits and provision of basic services such as good roads, regular electricity, potable water supply, security, employment, efficient health care and good and affordable education. Despite official rhetoric, there is evidence to show that there has been a decline in the living standards of 3rd World Countries since the in the last decade.
- Politicians may not be responsive to public demands until the eve of the next elections.
- There may be gross and offensive corruption of the material and moral basis of the nation-state.
- The use of physical and psychological violence against opponents may be common. The spate of bombing and wide-spread violence ochestracted in many countries during general election shows that politicians can go to any extent to capture power.
- Electoral rigging and manipulation are highly prevalent.
- There is deliberate disregard for the rule of law. Politicians tend to exhibit arrogance in their personal and, group behaviours, and thereby alienate the electorate and Civil society. Legislators, for example, are required to open constituency offices where they can interact regularly with the electorate but only few have bothered to open such offices or attend to the problems of the electors or even allow people have access to them.
- There is an open desire to pull down political structures with thuggery, intimidation, and victimization of opponents and less concern for democratic values.
- There is blatant absence of modernization in the lifestyles of politicians as evidenced 1n their primitive accumulation of wealth.
- Politicians tend to specialize in the manipulation of emotions and sentiments. They only remember their ethnic or religion background when they receive a raw deal from their competitors for power. But when the going is good, the politicians easily join hands together to defend and protect their class interests. At that point, their ethnic, religious or party afflliations are hardly discernible.