Democracy: Power to the People?

Britain is about to elect a new government. But how democratic will it be and how does the present one fare on this front? An international audit of democracy, being applied to a number of countries, has produced disturbing findings about the United Kingdom. The centralised executive is seen as an obstacle to protecting civil and political rights. Checks on this power are a myth and there has been a reluctance to redress the imbalance between executive and parliamentary power.

The World Today
6 minute READ

David Beetham

Director, Centre for Democratisation Studies, University of Leeds

Stuart Weir

Director of Democratic Audit, University of Essex

Representative democracy is making fitful progress around the world, with remarkable advances in some regions and major setbacks in others. Its progress is menaced by religious fundamentalism, ethnic domination and conflicts, military coups and war. For every Yugoslavia where the people rose in protest against rigged elections, there is a Zimbabwe where a brutal electoral dictator seeks to perpetuate his corrupt rule by subverting the rule of law, using state and irregular forces to terrorise political opponents and the media, and systematically spreading fear. But there are other more insidious menaces too.

People in new and democratising states embrace the idea of democracy with enthusiasm, but that enthusiasm too often turns to disillusionment when they find that they still have limited purchase on power and their daily lives are little changed.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.