“Assessing the Quality of democracy”

Assessing the quality of democracy by Larry Diamond and Leonardo Morlino. The John Hopkins University Press.  2005. 

This book enlightens the reader as to how deepening democracy is morally good. This is good at a time where the public’s trust in the government and political institutions have declined drastically. Citizens have become alienated from politics while democratic institutions have become corrupt, self-interested and unresponsive which has led to the crisis of democracy.

A good democracy needs a rule of law, vertical accountability, responsiveness, freedom, equality, participation, competition, horizontal accountability, transparency and effectiveness of representation.

A democracy needs recurring free, competitive and fair elections which will lead to civil and political freedoms. It also needs more than one serious political party in order to increase the competition between parties.

The three main goals of democracy is to achieve political and civil freedom, popular sovereignty and political equality. But this needs good governance, transparency, accountability and a response to rules from political leaders.

Quality democracy, which is what all countries aim for, consists of a high degree of freedom, popular control over public policies, policies that are approved through legal institutions, political equality, giving citizens what they expect from the government, liberty, citizens who have sovereign power as well as accountability.

Everyone should be equal before the law but more so , the law should be made publicly known to people and should be stable, non-retractive, as well as fairly and consistently applied.

Participation from citizens is required as well. They should have formal rights and should be able to participate in political action within the country.  They should have the right to vote, to organize or assemble protests, to influence decision-making, to join political parties and civic orgnaizations, to monitor the conduct of officials, to receive basic education and literacy. Citizens should also be able to defend the weaker social groups.

Political leaders need to take accountability for their actions and should ensure that there is a fair distribution of power.

But democracy still seems to be an ideal in South Africa, and the road to achieve it seems very distant.