Democracy 5 Markers


Representative Democracy

1) What are the main features of representative democracy? 

In a representative democracy, the public vote for MP’s to make decisions on their behalf; this responsibility is delegated to the MP’s as opposed to the people themselves. Representative Assemblies are created such as the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament. These assemblies should work for the will of the people. Representatives with similar views group together to form political parties such as the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats. Outside of the elected assemblies, pressure groups are created to continue to represent the will of the people.

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Direct Democracy

2) Define direct democracy. 

Direct democracy first originated in Ancient Greece and focuses on the public making the decisions, as opposed to representatives on their behalf. Direct democracy today is most commonly used through referendums, whereby the people are asked for their opinion and have one vote in order for decisions to be made. For example, the UK citizens were asked in 2011 whether Britain should change its voting system to the Alternative Vote. 68% said no and therefore the decision was made to not change it.

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Liberal Democracy

3. Define Liberal Democracy.

Liberal democracy is a type of democracy that combines both liberal and democratic features. The main examples of liberal democracy occur in the west, within developed nations. Democratic features of liberal democracy include the right to free and fair election, for example in the UK, elections are free and fair as every UK citizen is able to vote free of charge. Other democratic features include, wide suffrge and the MP-constituency link which means representatives act on behalf of citizens. Liberal features include the checks and balances such as the opposition in the house of commons and the house of laws who due to the 1949 Parliament Act, have the ability to delay laws being passed.

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Political Participation

4) Apart from voting in elections and referendums, describe two ways of    participating in politics. 

One alternative way of participating in politics is through joining a pressure group. There are around 700 pressure groups in the UK and they have the ability to express people’s opinions on topics that political parties may not focus on as much, such as the RSPCA for animal rights and welfare. Pressure groups also have the ability to put pressure on the government to make decisions that best represent their interests in the time that there is not a general election. A second way of participating in politics is through joining a political party. Being a member of a political party allows for various forms of participation such as commenting on policy, attending party conferences or simply being a donor or fund-raiser.

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5) Outline the key features of a referendum. 

Referendums are a public vote on a single issue and normally possess a yes/ no answer. They are a modern form of direct democracy and are ad hoc (occur when needed). The government of the day are able to set the timings and the question of the referendum. Although referendums give a final preference, the government are not legally bound by the vote and could choose the other option. Whether Britain should leave the EU or not is an example of a referendum, which took place in 2016.

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Referendums vs Elections

6) How does a referendum differ from an election? 

Referendums differ from elections in many ways. Firstly, the purpose of a referendum is to come to a final decision, for example whether to remain or leave the EU. In comparison, an election provides a mechanism to place officials in representative posts. Secondly, referendums are normally concerned with a single issue where as elections provide a mechanism to secure a government on a variety on issues such as healthcare, education and housing. Referendums are seen as consultative because the government does not have to stick with the final decision where as election results are binding and final. As opposed to being held at a fixed time, for example elections that must be held by law once every 5 years, referendums are referred to as ad hoc and occur when needed. Finally, referendums derived from direct democracy where the people make the decisions, where as elections are an integral part of representative democracy.

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7) What is meant by legitimacy.

Legitimacy means rightfulness. It can be seen as an approval term which may in turn allow political behaviour or conduct. Legitimacy is also referred to as the "right to rule". It distinguishes between power and authority, authority being power cloaked in legitimacy. Within politics, there are to ways of faining legitimacy, this is usually due to the result of elections. For example, David Cameron had the right to rule following the May 2015 election. This is because the Conservative's gained a majority in the house of commons, winning 331 seats. Another surce is referred to as constitutional legitimacy. This is traditional and constitutuonal and promotes stability and power.

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Democratic Legitimacy

8) Define democratic legitimacy and outline two ways in which it is achieved.

Democratic legitimacy is the accepted right to exercise and use power. When it has been achieved through a democratic route, it is conferred by the people and also through the accepted political framework of the state. It can be obtained through many routes. One of the ways is through popular consent following a referendum. For example, in the 1997 referendum on a Scottish Parliament, the result was in favour of devolution as 74% voted in favour. Therefore giving it democratic legitimacy as there was approval from the electorate regarding this constituonal change.

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