The term democracy is coined from two Latin words, ‘Demos,’ meaning the people and “Kratos,’ meaning the rule. The simplest meaning of democracy is the rule of the people.
Democracy is that system of government in which the people are given the right to share in the exercise of sovereign powers. Abraham Lincoln defined Democracy as, “The government of the people, by the people and for the people”.
Types of Democracy
(i) Direct Democracy:
By direct Democracy, we mean that all the citizens of a country participate in the law-making process of the country. This means that every citizen will assemble in a common place to contribute to the governing of the society. For example, in the Greek City States, every citizen will be required to assemble to make laws. This was possible because the territory and the population were small. In this way people could gather at one place in order to make laws. Today, this is impossible due to large territory and population. Therefore, what we have is indirect democracy in which the people elect their representatives and the representatives carry out the wish of the people.
(ii) Indirect Democracy:
By indirect democracy we mean, a system in which all the people contribute to the business of the State by selecting their own representatives through periodic elections. In the 1999 elections in Rivers State, 22 people were elected to represent Rivers State in the House of Assembly whose main business is to make laws for the good governance of Rivers State.
Main Characteristics of Democracy
1. Enlightened Citizenship:
The citizens must be enlightened both in terms of their rights and duties and be aware of the form of government in a State. An enlightened citizen must understand his civil responsibilities and go about them without rumbling.
2. Character and Ability:
It means that everybody should believe in fair play and justice. One should be honest in dealing with others.
To ensure liberty there must be vigilance. People must guard their rights and duties. One should not only obey the government, but that such obedience must be rational. Without vigilance, the elected members can be a law on to themselves. It is the lack of vigilance that has made democracy unsuccessful in many third world countries.
According to Harold Laski, education is the heart of a Nation and the centre of democracy. The higher the percentage of literate citizens, the higher the success of democracy. By education we mean that everybody should not only know how to read and write but should be able to understand the working of the government. Political scientists in United Kingdom, France and United States of America believe that the success of democracy is due to high level of education.
People must have the mind to share their opinion with others without being offended as everybody is free to express his or her opinion. The majority should have the way while the minority should have their say.
6. Fundamental Human Rights:
In every democracy, there should be laid down, Fundamental Human Rights. which the government cannot infringe upon. This implies that there should be a proper relationship between the State and the individuals. The State is only a means to an end therefore, there cannot be democracy without proper guaranteeing of Fundamental Human Rights.
The present system of democracy cannot work without efficient governmental hierarchy. Such system of government is based on political party organisation. Good leadership comes with good governance and this can guarantee lasting democracy in a political system or State.