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The recently concluded assembly elections
- It has some larger implications that one needs to take note of.
- The consequences are not confined to the five states where the electoral battle was fought.
What the editorial is about?
- Electoral aspects and the non-electoral dimensions of democracy.
The battle between electoral democracy and constitutional democracy
- In much of the world, the electoral aspects of democracy are now being used to undermine the non-electoral dimensions of democracy.
- This process can be called the battle between electoral democracy and constitutional democracy.
- In this day and age, democracies don’t normally die as a result of military or executive coups.
- Processes internal to the democratic system can severely weaken democracy itself, even causing its collapse.
- Today, such contradictions exist in Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Russia, to name just a few countries.
- It (such contradictions) has been differently labelled as right-wing populism, majoritarianism or illiberal democracy, the core of this politics consists of the following proposition.
- If we can get elections to legitimate our platform on behalf of a racial/ethnic/religious majority, we can use electoral power to attack – via legislation — the idea of minority rights and undermine – also via legislation — standard democratic freedoms such as the freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religious or cultural practice.
- A freely conducted vote can thus be used to cripple the other freedoms that modern democracies also value.
- A detailed look into the victory in many states in the recently concluded assembly elections shows that this victory belongs to this genre of democratic politics.
Electoral democracy can be a vehicle of an assault on constitutional democracy
- The triumph of such politics can now be used in three ways
- in executive decrees
- in legislative chambers to formulate laws
- on the street via vigilante forces
- Though minority rights are enshrined in India’s Constitution, election victories can now be used to create laws or government policies that begin to attack precisely those rights.
- That is one of the meanings of how electoral democracy can be a vehicle of an assault on constitutional democracy.
Will of the judiciary to play its constitutionally assigned role
- The courts are the final custodian of constitutional proprieties in a democracy and can frustrate a legislative or executive attack on the Constitution.
- But that depends on whether the judiciary is willing to play its constitutionally assigned role.
- Judicial interpretation can go either way – in favour of the government or against it.
Roots of these contradictory aspects of democracy
- These contradictory aspects of democracy do have older roots.
Democracy of America’s southern states
- One can go all the way back to some tendencies that emerged in the democracy of America’s southern states in the 1880s, which lasted till the 1960s.
- America’s Blacks lost their equality as well as franchise, and the courts did not invalidate a majoritarian attack on their rights.
- The history of 1930s Germany is also viewed as an example of how democracy undermined democracy.
- As early as the 1950s, Sri Lanka imposed a “Sinhala only” policy on the Tamil minority of the country.
- In the 1980s, a civil war was born as a consequence.
- In Malaysia, following roughly similar policies, the Malay majority side-lined the Chinese minority.
- Internal tensions and aggravations rose but, unlike Sri Lanka, a civil war did not.
- The minorities pursued their interests by entering into coalitions with political parties within the larger parameters of the polity.
- The electoral aspect of the democracy can affect the non-electoral aspect of the democracy. It has larger implications for democracy.
Practice Question for Mains
- In much of the world, the electoral aspects of democracy are now being used to undermine the non-electoral dimensions of democracy. Substantiate. (250 Words, 15 Marks)