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What Makes Election Democratic?

Elections can be held in many ways. All democratic countries hold elections. But most non-democratic countries also hold some kind of elections. There are countries where elections are held but they cannot be called democratic elections.

Citizens enrol themselves as legitimate voters

The minimum conditions of a democratic election:

  • Every Citizen should have one vote and every vote should have equal value.
  • Voters choose from. that is Political parties and candidates should be free to contest elections giving the voters a real choice.
  • Elections should be held at regular intervals.
  • The candidate preferred by the people should get elected.
  • Elections should be conducted in a free and fair manner where people can choose as they really wish.

These might look like very simple and easy conditions. But there are many countries where these are not fulfilled.

Elections is basically political competition. The competition is among political parties. At the constituency level, it takes the form of competition among several candidates.

If there is no competition, elections will become pointless. An electoral competition has many demerits. It creates a sense of disunity and ‘factionalism’ in every locality.

Demerits of an Electoral Competition

  • Different political parties and leaders level allegations against one another.
  • Parties and candidates often use dirty tricks to win elections. The pressure to win elections does not allow sensible long-term policies to be formulated.
  • Good people who may wish to serve the country do not enter this arena. They do not like the idea of being dragged into unhealthy competition.
  • A lot of money that can be used for the betterment of the nation is wasted in election campaigning.

Electronic Voting machines used during elections.

  • Political leaders all over the world, like all other professionals, are motivated by a desire to advance their political careers.
  • They want to remain in power or get power and positions for themselves.
  • They serve the people as well, but they may not know what is required to be done, or their ideas may not match what the people really want.

Let us see what can be done to improve the political situation.

  • The knowledge and character of the political leaders should improve.
  • Political leaders should be rewarded for serving the people and punished if they do not serve the people.

In a democracy reward and punishment for political parties is in the hands of the people who vote them to power

  • Regular electoral competition provides incentives to political parties and leaders.
  • If they serve the people sincerely, their popularity and chances of victory will increase in the next elections.
  • If they fail to satisfy the voters with their work they will not be able to win again.

So if a political party is motivated only by desire to be in power, even then it will be forced to serve the people. This is a bit like the way market works. Even if a shopkeeper is interested only in his profit, he is forced to give good service to the customers. If he does not, the customer will go to some other shop. Similarly, political competition may cause divisions and some ugliness, but it finally helps to force political parties and leaders to serve the people.


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