What democracy is and is not

What Democracy is and is not by Schmitter and Karl, Journal of Deomcracy. 1991.

Democracy is ambiguous. It needs minimal conditions such as the right to vote in order to be recognized as democracy. But this in itself is flawed because voting does not eradicate poverty and inequality. Voting does not solve the social inequalities that the marginalized people are faced with. Public platforms need to be created where citizens can engage in political dialogue and where they can publicly voice their grievances. Voting does not occur regularly enough for problems to be solved either. It has been said that citizens are the most distinctive element in society yet how is this possible when citizens don’t possess enough power?

Democracy should consist of leaders being held accountable by the citizens. In the South African context, this does not occur to the extent that it should. Jacob Zuma became the President after being accused of rape. He continues to remain President even after the Nkandla debacle as well as most recently the reshuffling of the Cabinet. This means that the democracy that we claim South Africa has is not as beneficial to the people as it should be. Democracy depends on the leaders who have authority but how do they assist citizens when they are corrupt?

The issue is the link between power and accountability. Seemingly, the more power you possess, the more you can avoid accountability for your actions because you can coerce people into siding with you.

South Africa has one of the best constitutions in the world  yet this does not mean that our country is the best in the world. The Constitution is the best in terms of its theory but not in how that theory has been relayed into practice. The implementation of the Constitution is problematic in the country.

Democracy needs good competition in order to function efficiently. This competition will force the ruling party to fulfill its mandate.

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