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Elections & Voting Explained

What is a Liberal Democracy?

Elections are seen as an essential requirement for a Democracy. Democracy can be defined, from its origin as a Greek work, as control of power by the people, but beyond this there has been a debate about what the main elements are. 

The system of democracy existing in the Western world is generally referred to as Liberal Democracy which has a number of aspects:-

-        Equality before the law and the safeguarding of basic freedoms of religion, speech and use of one’s property, generally through a Constitution but in Britain, which has no written constitution, there are a range of areas of law that do this, one of which is the Human Rights Act.

-        Free and fair elections with all those qualified to vote able to take part equally and a range of political parties expressing different views and representing different interests taking part in these elections.

-        Pluralism so that all power is not concentrated in the Central Government  but decentralised to lower levels of Government, to Parliament and the Judiciary, through political parties and a range of other civil society organisations such as interest groups, trade unions and business associations.

One of the biggest problems of democracy is the rights of minorities. Democracy is held to require the will of the majority to prevail so that decisions reflected the interest of most people and not smaller vested interests. On the other hand, there is the question as to how far this can override the interest of minorities. Also some political theorists argue that democracy must involve an open and thorough discussion of issues, rather than just that decisions should be taken, and the role of the media in representing different views and debating them is vital. The idea of Social Democracy holds that some equality of social and economic conditions for people is essential and not just the basic freedoms.

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