Challenges to Democracy
Meaning of Challenge
A challenge is not just any problem. We usually call only those difficulties a ‘challenge’ which are significant and which can be overcome. A challenge is a difficulty that carries within it an opportunity for progress. Once we overcome a challenge we go up to a higher level than before.
1. Different countries face different kinds of challenges. At least one fourth of the globe is still not under democratic government. The challenge for democracy in these parts of the world is very stark. These countries face the foundational challenge of making the transition to democracy and then instituting democratic government.
2. This involves,
a) bringing down the existing non-democratic regime,
b) keeping military away from controlling government and,
c) establishing a sovereign and functional state.
Nepal is a very good example of foundational challenge of democracy.
Challenge of Expansion.
1. Most of the established democracies face the challenge of expansion.
2. This involves applying the basic principle of democratic government across all the regions, different social groups and various institutions. Ensuring greater power to local governments, extension of federal principle to all the units of the federation, inclusion of women and minority groups, etc., falls under this challenge.
3. This also means that less and less decisions should remain outside the arena of democratic control.
4. Most countries including India and other democracies like the US face this challenge.
5. In India certain socio-economically backward groups have yet to get the political powers. Additionally, some north-eastern states have not yet fully integrated with the mainstream India. These are examples of challenge of expansion of democracy.
Deepening of Democracy
1. The third challenge of deepening of democracy is faced by every democracy in one form or another.
2. This involves strengthening of the institutions and practices of democracy. This should happen in such a way that people can realise their expectations of democracy.
3. But ordinary people have different expectations from democracy in different societies.
4. Electoral reforms brought about in India and the R T I Act are the examples of deepening democracy.
Democracy reforms or Political Reforms
Generally all the suggestions or proposals about overcoming various challenges to democracy are called ‘democracy reform’ or ‘political reform’. As different democracies face different kinds of challenges, there can never be a readymade set of suggestions. But we can think of a few.
a) It is very tempting to think about legal changes that ban undesirable practices.
b) Unless it is accepted or carefully thought of, it can be counterproductive.
c) The LBW rule introduced in cricket has improved the quality of cricket playing because, it has been accepted by the players, coaches and the administrators. Similarly, if not accepted by those who practice politics, the legal changes would remain ineffective.
d) A state banned a person having more than two children from contesting election. It snatched away the right of a person to contest elections. This is an example to show how legal ways can be counter productive,
e) RTI Act passed in 2005 is one carefully thought of legal measure. It has improved the quality of democratic politics.
Quality of political practice:
a) Democratic reforms are to be brought about principally through political practice. Therefore, the main focus of political reforms should be on ways to strengthen democratic practice.
b) The most important concern should be to increase and improve the quality of political participation by ordinary citizens.
Role of Pressure Groups, Movements and Media:
a) Any proposal for political reforms should think not only about what is a good solution but also about who will implement it and how.
b) It is not very wise to think that the legislatures will pass legislations that go against the interest of all the political parties and MPs.
c) But measures that rely on democratic movements, citizens’ organisations and the media are likely to succeed.