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What Creates Democracy

Democracy is a form of governance in which people have supreme power. The power is exercised either through direct rule or through representative rule. In direct rule, the people vote for a given issue while in representative rule, officials are elected and they make decisions on behalf of the people. As put by Abraham Lincoln, a democracy is “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people” (Collier & Levitsky 1997). Various forms of democracy exist which give varying degrees of freedom to the people depending on power distribution within the government. The advantages of democracy are undeniable since people are allowed to rule through majority votes thus keeping most people on a common agenda and minimizing conflict. Recently, the world has witnessed a trend in which countries have been democratized due to pressure from other countries as well as from the people themselves since democracy is seen by many as one of the best form of governance. However, achieving total democracy is not easy with most states having been under authoritarian rule as well as other forms of governance such as communism, monarchies, and dictatorships.

The West is mostly taken as the model of democracy with countries such as the U.S. and Canada being held up as some of the ideal examples of democracies. Other countries, however, have different forms of governance depending on their respective history. The methods through which a given country arrived at democracy as well as the qualities of the leaders involved shape the type of government arrived at. In addition, the needs of the people and their persuasions at any given time determine the democratic space in a given country. Full democratization takes place in three steps; removing authoritarian regimes, putting in place a democratic government, and strengthening the government (Pretorius 2009).

The reason for the creation of democracies is the issues that arise with other forms of governance that usually come across as oppressive for the subjects. Democracy allows the people to choose for themselves the methods to be applied in governance therefore giving them a measure of control on issues even if they do not rule directly. The main argument for democracy is that issues are resolved according to the wishes of most of the people and that the majority cannot be wrong or misguided. The democracies are achieved through the guidance of individuals who best represent the views of the people and who inspire the people towards movement in a given direction.

This view can be illustrated by looking at two countries with different forms of democratic governments and the modes through which they achieved democracy. The view that individuals, that is causers, are the creators of democracy will be looked at with reference to Hungary, a country that was in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R) and Greece (which is considered as the birthplace of Democracy) a country in southeastern Europe.

Governance ranges between two extremes, by a single person such as in monarchies, and by the people as in democracies while oligarchies are ruled by a few people. Greece can be said to have had the longest path towards a democracy with the foundations of the democratic state starting in about 5th A.D. Athens, a Greek city, had the beginnings of direct democracy in which everyone had a say in the issues affecting the city-state. At the time, the citizens were empowered to vote directly for issues that affected them as opposed to current representative democracies. The conditions for such a democracy would be the presence of a small population that would efficiently vote for issues, and the economic ability of the individuals must be such that they could have time to vote. These two preconditions were present in Athens since the voting could be achieved fast enough because there were low populations and the people had time to vote since there were many slaves who provided the citizenry with enough leisure time for debates and voting. However, Athens’ democracy only allowed men to vote which is a shortcoming of the system (Historyworld.net 2009).

The two conditions necessary for the establishment of a direct democracy may be taken as causes in the creation of democracy since their absence means that democracy would not have been achieved or established. However, democracy would not have been achieved without the guidance of certain individuals or their presentation of the idea of democracy to the people. Therefore, democracy is brought about by individuals (causers) not by situations that bring about reactions in the population thereby bringing about democracy. Since the Athenians had leisure and a small population, democracy was possible though limited to the views of the times that women were inferior in reasoning to men and hence their being denied votes. As such, democracy can be seen as one in many possible systems that could have been adopted – one whose adoption is governed by the presence of certain preconditions. Its adoption is brought about by perceived advantages of the system that was brought about by the proselytizing of individuals on the merits of democracy.

The democratization of Athens was led by individuals who brought political changes to the systems as leaders the most influential of these were; Solon, Cleisthenes, and Pericles. Solon set all slaves free while at the same time canceling agricultural debts. He also divided the people into groups depending on their production ability rather than their birth that had been used previously therefore bringing about the idea of nobility through industry. Therefore, people who were disadvantaged could work their way up. As a result, the opportunity to become a political leader was laid open for everyone except the lower class, the laborers, who could vote but could not run for office. These laws pivoted the Athenian state towards democracy by leveling the political playing field and encouraging everyone to participate in the political system (Barret 2009b).

The second leader, Cleisthenes, removed an oligarchy and transformed it to the democracy that was much more advanced than any other political system existing at the time. Through turning to people for support rather than his administrative instruments, Cleisthenes won over the people. In the system, the entire population would rule through voting which was done at assemblies. All citizens were allowed to debate issues but political leaders were often given the podium to present their views upon which the citizenry would give their approval through the vote (Barret 2009). He also created a council of five hundred men who were chosen from the citizens and who managed the issues to be discussed by the citizens.

Males who were more than thirty years old could serve in the council and its members were rotated such that one could not serve for more than two years in his lifetime. Cleisthenes’ hope was that, with the establishment of such a system, people would gain political experience as well as making sure that the citizens would support the system thereby minimizing conflict and dissent (Kreis 2000).

Pericles furthered Athenian democracy by breaking up the council established by Cleisthenes thereby removing any discriminatory qualities it may have had. Equality of justice and opportunity was established. The determination of who could get into political office was decided by merit rather than birth or property thereby establishing equality of opportunity. A jury system made sure that everyone was treated fairly in the application of the law thereby bringing about equality of justice (Kreis 2000). The involvement of these leaders demonstrates the importance of individuals in bringing about democracy or changes in political systems. Through the impression of the proper ideas on the people, individuals have the ability to bring changes by inspiring people and introducing radical ideas. If these ideas are beneficial, they are adopted as can be seen from the early Greeks. However, if these ideas are not beneficial or acceptable, the people would revolt against them and thus they would be discarded with time.

Causes, or issues, cannot alone inspire democratic change since people would only respond to them individually and not with a complete overhaul off the system. The radical ideas that brought about democracy had to be proposed, and carried out by individuals who then showed that they were workable. Some nations have stayed under repressive regimes that depend on chance for good governance, for example monarchies, which fail to reach the goals of the people. These people, rather than change the systems that oppress them, hope that individuals with a reformist agenda will assume leadership and radically transform the same failed systems. The elements needed for such states to change into democracies however, are not brought about by the issues raised by the systems but by individuals who resist or inspire resistance in the people. Therefore, these systems indicate the uselessness of causes in inspiring democratic change and the ability of individuals such as Pericles in inspiring and establishing alternative systems of governance.

The democratic state was to take shape much later after the Athenian direct democratic rule government. The mode of governance was only to be established in the world as the preferred mode of government about two thousand years later. The modern western democracy is modeled around the Ancient Greek system. Modern Greece and Hungary took their cue from established democratic powerhouses such as the U.S with the encouragement of results that had been achieved through the system. The relative stability and prosperity of democratic nations has inspired leaders to get rid of repressive regimes and to establish the same modes of governance in their countries.

The idea of the causers as the creators of democracies is best illustrated by the democratization of Hungary that was inspired and led by individuals. The democratization of Hungary began with the Aster revolution in 1918. The revolution brought the monarchy of Austro-Hungary, led by King Charles IV, to its end and in its stead; a separate democracy, led by Mihály Károlyi as the president. The democracy, however, crumbled under the influence of other powers that were hungry for territories as well as due to poor leadership. Another leader, Béla Kun, led a communist revolution against the government and ascended to power. The communist revolution also did not last and it lost support from the people after failing to keep its promises. After a series of upheavals, the country finally achieved democracy in 1989 through what was termed as the quiet revolution.

This revolution was brought about by intellectuals and political players in the government changing the system into a democratic one more smoothly than any other country that had been part of the U.S.S.R had experienced. The process of democratization started with the leadership of Kadar who, in the 1960s, introduced policies that established the way for democracy. A new economic plan that sought to resolve the problems of planned production as well as aiming at making the country more competitive in the world was introduced. Reforms were brought about by pressure from the international community as well as internal pressure and by the 1980s; the country had achieved relative political liberalization and economic changes (Bertelsmann 2009).

Increased pressure brought about the need for changes in the government that culminated in the democracy package being adopted in parliament in 1988. The package included union pluralism, freedom of association, press and assembly. The Soviet Union, of which the country had been part, decided to withdraw its troops from its territory by 1991. The country became democratic with the adoption of the legislation that provided for the adoption of the multiparty parliamentary elections and presidential rule. This legislation overhauled the power division in the country thereby establishing it as a democracy. Equal status was also granted to private as well as public business institutions.

From these changes, the role of individuals in bringing about democracy can be seen since those who pressed for change can be classified as causers. The changes that came about, however, cannot be entirely attributed to the causers but the also internal pressure as well global trends at the time mainly as a result of the fall of U.S.S.R. which was the beacon of communism. The process demanded the participation of opponents to the government but they were also responding to issues (causes). These issues had arisen because of the performance of the country on the global front since it had shown that it could not compete with other countries effectively (Bertelsmann 2009). In addition, countries that had adopted and implemented democratic systems were performing better on the economic front as compared to their counterparts who were still under communist regimes. The U.S.S.R, which had been greatly opposed to democratic change in Hungary, pulled out under international pressure thereby enabling the country to embark on political and economic reforms. The causes were therefore economical as well as political since the country could not remain stable or competitive under the communist regime. Therefore, the causers reacted to issues that had been raised thereby bringing change to the country.

Modern Greece has its roots in the recognition of Greece as an independent state during the reign of the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century. The region was made a monarchy through the treaty of London with the prince of Bavaria being chosen as its first King in 1833 (Stylianou 2009). Greece was then ruled by a series of Kings at a time when the country underwent several battles over territorial as well political issues. The democratization of Greece started in earnest in 1967 during which elections were to be held. However, some generals took power through a coup de tat during which the king was ousted. He tried a counter coup but this also failed and he was forced to flee. The generals instituted a rule of terror in the country that resulted in revolts throughout the country. However, they were quelled with state force such as restrictions, torture and censorship.

One such incident came in 1973 when the military stopped a demonstration by university students using tankers. In the effort, several students were killed. This greatly reduced the positive support that the military had thereby increasing unrest and calls for elections. At the time, the ruling general, Papadopoulos, was replaced by Dimitrios Ioannides who tried to continue governing despite the negative sentiment that existed. These domestic problems were not helped by a plot in which the generals sought to unite Greece with Cyprus by assassinating its king. However, the king escaped and Turkey invaded the region taking a large part of the territory. In the worsening situation, Karamanlis, who had been living in exile previously, returned to the country after being persuaded by the country’s leaders to return. Elections were held in 1974 and in a subsequent referendum, the country voted against having a king therefore removing the monarchy from power.

The democratization of Greece shows the power of the people in bringing about democracy. The actions of individuals in Greece contributed to the democratization process as can be seen from the response of the students to bad governance. The issues of the day only serve to inspire people to action and as such, they do not really bring about democratic changes. Political changes are brought about by demands made by people on the existing political powers to change. The call for the return of Karamanlis from exile may be compared to the call for democratization in Hungary by intellectuals. The people united in their demand for some action that was then carried out due to their bargaining power. Civil unrest and dissent reflects badly on a governments’ ability to satisfy its subjects and hence it seeks to address the issues for which change is called. In Greece, the call for elections during the military juntas’ reign was responded to by force thus prompting more force on the part of the government.

As a result, the junta had to give way to the leadership of a more people friendly government – that of Karamanlis. In Samuel Huntington’s The third wave: democratization in the late twentieth century (1993), the factors that contributed to the democratization of nations are given as the presence of other successful democratic nations and failure in the administration of countries with authoritarian regimes. Other factors include; need for political participation, increase of stress in non-democratic countries, higher standards of living and education for the masses therefore leading to a larger middle class that was well informed. This middle class, as well as the general population, had developed values such as the need of freedom of speech and the press that were democratic values and hence the greater call for democracy by them. In addition, the church increased its support for democratic rule, particularly the Catholic Church, therefore linking two powerful forces together- political and religious forces.

According to Huntington (1993), the fact that other countries such as Poland, the Philippines, and Spain had successfully become democracies made the citizens of other countries to desire change and call for it. These countries underwent democratic changes due to different reasons from those that had previously undergone change before the period. Huntington states that the democratization process is not brought about by the general causes alone but by these factors as well as some unique ones to a given country. The conditions are only necessary for the democratization atmosphere but they do not bring change in themselves. For Hungary and Greece, the ingredients for democratization were present as can be seen but the population and its leaders had to be involved to cause change.

In early Greek direct democracy, the leaders were the main creators of democracy as a response to the needs of the people. The issues of the day, for example, Solon saw the need for everyone’s participation in political issues and he therefore made it possible for everyone to vote. He also made it possible for a majority of people to hold public office. These changes were not brought about by the conditions that prevailed at the time but were inspired by the leader himself. The other early Greek leaders did the same for Athens, whereby, by responding to existing issues, they brought about democratic change.

In Modern Greece and Hungary, the masses rather than the leaders themselves were the inspirers of change as can be seen when the leaders responded to criticism by refusing to change the system. When the people called for democracy during the reign of the military junta in Greece, the military tried to refuse by using force thereby showing the unwillingness that is characteristic of those in power to change. However, people as the causers in the establishment of democracy can be seen since they prevailed on all occasions. Democracy was created in both the countries despite the existence of opposition from those in power. Issues, however, cannot bring democratic change since they existed in both Hungary and Greece but the countries were not undergoing change. Therefore, change is brought about by the people or individuals and not by the issues that face the people. Issues are also subject to change but the desire in people could last longer therefore making change more probable. When people or individuals are set towards a given set of ideals, they are unlikely to change fast as can the issues affecting them.

Relative poverty in both Greece and Hungary may have inspired the desire for democratic change and the establishment of a more equitable playing field. However, the poverty could not have inspired the changes that were experienced in the first and the second waves of democratization (Huntington 1993). This indicates that issues are not the real causers of change but are an important, though subsidiary, ingredient in bringing about democracy. Their importance, however, cannot be overlooked as can be shown by an example given by Huntington (1993). In Haiti, the conditions were not favorable for democratic change in the 1980s and dedicated leaders who were seeking to achieve democratic change were not able to. Therefore, a leader who is inspired to bring about democratic change is limited in his success by the presence or absence of political conditions that are favorable to the change. Similarly, if the people in a country want democratic change and the leaders as well as other conditions are against this change, then change would be hard to achieve. The change can only be brought about by a conglomeration of factors and the willingness by the people to bring about democracy.

The changes that are achieved can be classified as either transformations or trans-placements. In trans-placements, the reformers and those in power, the standpatters, have almost equal power and the change is usually achieved through negotiations and sharing of power. They often occur between moderates and reformers as well. In transformations, however, change is more difficult as the two groups involved do not have the same amounts of power. The opposition has to be stronger than the government to achieve change. This can be achieved through the sensitization of the masses r through defections from the government to the opposing side. Transformations may also come about through the leadership who may change their policies towards a more democratized state. This is achieved when the leaders are sensitive to the people’s wishes thereby changing their policies to suit the people’s wishes. Leaders may also be under pressure from various quarters or seek to improve the country’s performance for them to bring change.

Therefore, political change, and in particular democratic change, can only be achieved through a series of factors that, together with willing people and leaders, make up the elements necessary for change. However, the most important of these is the people’s and the leaders’ desire to achieve change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Barret, M. 2009. A Brief Outline of Athenian Democracy. [Online] Available at: http://www.ahistoryofgreece.com/athens-democracy.htm [January 7, 2010]

Barret, M. 2009b. The Golden Age of Greece. [Online] Available at: http://www.ahistoryofgreece.com/goldenage.htm [January 7, 2010]

Bertelsmann Stiftung. 2009. Hungary Country Report. [Online] Available at:http://www.bertelsmann-transformation-index.de/171.0.html?L=1 [January 7, 2010]

Collier, D. and Levitsky, S. 1997. Democracy with Adjectives: Conceptual Innovation in Comparative Research. [Online] Available at:

Available at: http://www.lib.wayne.edu:2076/journals/world_politics/v049/49.3collier.html [January 7, 2010]

Historyworld.net 2009. History of Democracy. [Online] Available at: http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ac42#2633 [January 7, 2010]

Huntington, S.P. 1993. The third wave: democratization in the late twentieth century (Vol. 4). University of Oklahoma Press. New York.

Johnson, D.1999. The beginnings of democracy. [Online] Southern Illinois University

Available at: http://languages.siuc.edu/classics/Johnson/HTML/L10.html [January 7, 2010]

Kreis, S. 2000. The Athenian Origins of Direct Democracy. [Online]

http://www.historyguide.org/ancient/lecture6b.html

Stylianou, A. 2009. History of modern Greece. [Online] Available at:

http://www.mlahanas.de/Greece/History/ModernHistory.html [January 7, 2010]

Pretorius, J. 2009. The Need for Post-Third Wave Conversations: African Politics: Beyond the Third Wave of Democratizations. [Online] Available at: http://www.jutaacademic.co.za/africanpolitics/chapters/chapter1.pdf [January 7, 2010]

 

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