Elections have widely been accepted as major tool for expressing the will of the people about the political government in a democratic state. It can be said that elections are a form of direct democracy as well as a democratic highway to a representative government .The concept of democracy, electoral systems and political parties is cardinal to the modern state but at the same time difficult to define. This assignment will attempt to explain these concepts and amplify the significance of electoral systems as a key pre requisite for democracy.
Elections and Democracy
Commenting on the concept of democracy, Makinda held that democracy can be seen as: “… a way of government firmly rooted in the belief that people in a society should be free to determine their own political, social, economic and cultural systems.”1 From the aforegoing, it can be said that the concept of democracy is used to describe a political system designed to widen the participation of ordinary citizens in government, the powers of which are clearly defined and limited. The building pillars of any democratic political systems remain without any doubt, elections which are seen as the most critical and visible means through which all citizens can peacefully choose or remove their leaders,2 In other words, elections are the principal instruments that compel or encourage policy makers to pay attention to the electorate (citizens)3 It follows that in a democratic dispensation elections require the existence of a system that allows citizens to make a political decision by voting for competing candidates fielded by various political parties holding divergent views and providing different alternatives .In this case, political opposition is held to be legal, legitimate and somewhat necessary because there will be no real test of the competence of the ruling party without the opposition in elections. It is generally agreed among political scientists that one of the key elements of a healthy democracy is the existence of an enduring opposition that critically checks the day to day activities of the ruling party.4 The opposition parties point out defects in the ruling parties’ public policies and make alternative proposals hoping that the voters will entrust them with power in four ,five or six years’ time. The opposition takes on the role of essentially being a government in waiting.5 It can be said that in any political system the litmus test for democracy will be by default ,the peaceful changeover of the reins of governmental power with the opposition winning elections and constituting a government with the ruling party quietly accepting the result and not responding with violence and intimidation .A notable case is that of Zimbabwe, where the ruling party accepted its defeat in the first round of the elections of March 2008 with trepidation and almost immediately resorting to absurd retribution .6 It is with this in mind that the electoral system of any state takes centre stage .whether it allow the general populance to exercise their choice during elections or the system favours those currently in power. Electoral Systems
At its 51st session in June 2002, the Venice Commission for Democracy through Law adopted a number of standards which define the democratic running of elections. These were summarised in a CODE OF GOOD PRACTICE IN ELECTORAL MATTERS (Guidelines and Explanatory Report).7 These European standards were formulated in two groups; the first group, Principles of Europe’s Electoral Heritage, includes five basic principles which are universal suffrage, equal suffrage, secret vote and direct elections .The European commission further adds the characteristic ‘periodical elections’ to the five principles.8 The second group is conditions for implementing the principals mentioned in the first group .These include: respect for fundamental rights, high regulatory level and stability of objective electoral law ,procedural guarantees containing...
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