How do we determine if a country is democratic? One broad, essential requirement for democracy is the existence of competitive elections that are regular, free and fair. Competitive elections offer a real possibility that the incumbent government may be defeated. A number of modern states call themselves ‘democratic’ but fall into a gray area that is neither clearly democratic nor clearly undemocratic. Liberal democracies display characteristics such as civil liberties, rule of law, neutrality of the judiciary, open civil society, and civilian control of the military.
How is Democracy measured?
- Political accountability – In a democracy, political leaders are held accountable to the people of a country. Existence of regular, free and fair elections.
- Political competition – Political parties must be free to organize, present candidates and express their ideas. The losing party must allow the winning party to take office peacefully.
- Political freedom – Assembly, organization, and political expression, including the right to criticize the government.
- Political equality – equal access to political participation, equal rights as citizens, and equal weighting of citizens votes.
Match the description to the correct term.
|Characteristics of a Democratic Society|
|Civil Liberties||Freedom of belief, speech and assembly|
|Rule of Law||Equal treatment of citizens|
|Neutrality of the Judiciary||Checks on abuse of power|
|Open Civil Society||Allows citizens to lead private lives, mass media to operate independently from government|
|Civilian Control of the Military||Restricts the likelihood of the military seizing control of the government|
Match the terms with the descriptions.
Questions to Consider:
- What are the characteristics of a democratic country?
- How do we measure democracy?
- How does change occur?