In its most basic essence, democracy refers to a system of government whereby the people of a country place representatives into the role of national administration via the casting of a ballot. In this system, the role of majority rule is complete and unquestionable; Individuals who are selected to represent the country must be willed to do so by a majority of the population.
Democracy has often been called the ideal form of government. Of all forms of government that have been utilized by human societies throughout history to organize and protect our kind, democracy is the only one that operates on consensus to create solutions to the problems society faces.
In the past, government often operated through directives issued by a ruling elite, often composed of those of ‘noble blood’, heritage, or otherwise superior social status as opposed to those selected by the people. Forms of government that used this system include authoritarianism, monarchism, oligarchic government, and tyranny. All nations under the government of elites have proved unstable due to a striking disparity in power between the ruling class and the commoner.
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The rulers often had too much power, but did not always employ it in the proper channels, which often resulted in the wants of the people left unmet, and flagrant abuse of privilege all too common. This resulted in the dissatisfaction of the people, who existed in the plains, the fields, and in the castle walls, as opposed to the nonchalance of the ruler, who sat alone and vulnerable without their satisfaction. Security was often nonexistent under one-man rule, for small changes in circumstances could destabilize society, and no matter what that one man decided on, there would always be ten thousand others who would oppose him.
Should we look at the circumstances under the proper light, government can be seen to be living, breathing, and evolving creature; In the burgeoning stages of its growth, it is not perfect. It is weak, and riddled with flaws. As the flaws are exposed to exploitation by fate over time, adaptation then takes place, and the organism changes in such a way as to better serve the purpose of eliminating, or accommodating these flaws. Monarchism, Authoritarianism, and so on can therefore be seen as neophytes in varying stages of evolution, changing through time to accommodate the necessity of appeasing the people, sometimes violently, sometimes slowly, through gradual, minute shifts in political power and ideals over the vicissitudes of time. Democracy, therefore, would be the apex of this evolution, created for the express purpose of appeasing the people.
Though evolution occurs at different rates, evolution itself nonetheless remains inevitable given a change in circumstances. The Greeks, long hailed as the progenitors of Western civilization, were themselves proponents and beneficiaries of the qualities of democratic government, flourishing under its gaze, through fulfillment of wants and needs, which created relative happiness and a general lack of endogenous forces that would effect strife, save for corruption. Japan, America, The United Kingdom, and Australia are today democratic as well, a circumstance manifested by the actions of democratic countries themselves to spread democracy, and therefore what many deem ‘civilization’. In the words of Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, ‘Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.’
Malaysia itself is an example of a democratic country. Every four years, we participate in General Elections to select the parties that will represent our country to the rest of the world, and who will assure our welfare, our health, and our collective happiness.
What does it mean, however, to be a democratic country? Rather, what significance does this bear to us, its inhabitants? What is our role in the mechanism that governs the democracy we so enjoy? Is democracy indeed an umbrella form of government that will work with every country? This work will attempt to explore these issues.
The significance of democracy
Many people choose not to vote, vindicating themselves with the pathetic excuse that their ‘one measly vote’ would ‘not change anything anyway’. Certainly, that is true. One vote will not change the result of an election, but that is precisely the point. The fact that there are millions of votes cast for differing parties during each general election is itself a feature of democracy; If one vote were indeed able to change an outcome, it would not in fact be a vote. It would be a decree, an order, and a directive. Rather than relying on the aggregate measure of society’s desire, we would instead be looking at a result that reflects the will of a single person. This would defeat the purpose of democracy.
Democracy is not simply a form of government; It is associated with many connotations. Democracy provides us freedom of choice. It empowers us to act, to make decisions to change our own fate, as opposed to remaining silent as if we were made of stone. The vote therefore is an incredibly powerful tool. It signifies liberty. It reflects the personal views and ideals of the voter. It reflects his leanings. Lastly, it reflects the fact that he cares about his country and the direction it will take in the future. People who do not vote therefore not only forfeit the use of this tool, but their own self-respect.
Democracy is not simply freedom, or a form of government. Should all the appropriate measures and conditions be appropriate for democracy, democracy itself becomes a responsibility of the people towards themselves. To what greater power should a person heed but him or herself? While the vote may be unable to change anything itself, the synergy of many votes combining together to make a majority is what effects change, and what decides what will happen to the country, and therefore to oneself. If a large segment of the population is equipped with the mindset that voting is pointless, then they will all not vote. The wrong people would then be put in power, and actions taken would then not reflect the consensus of the people, leading to the setbacks embodied in other forms of government as outlined previously.
On the other hand, should all parties in a democratic system(voters, political parties) fulfill their roles in the system of democracy correctly and fully, then optimum benefit to society will be rendered. As the government implemented and the actions taken as a result of that government would reflect the consensus of the people, there would be absolutely no reason for controversy, dispute, and fighting that would otherwise detract from the overall productivity and welfare of the population. In the real world, this is clearly not possible, due to the intervening forces of corruption and the sheer fallibility of human nature, which clearly applies to the representatives whom we ourselves place in seats of power. However, if more people are educated and aware of their role and significance in democracy, then we can minimize the effect of these hiccups in what would otherwise be an efficient administration.
Democracy: Is it suitable for all?
Democracy – A political organization wherein the populace exercises control over the matters, which affect, concern, or interest them. Quite frankly, it is power to the people. Logically fair in most senses, democracy seems a far better option than a monarchic or dictatorial rule where a single person or few people hold the fate of the nation in their extravagantly ringed hands. Democracy gives voice to the hundreds, the thousands, and the millions who deserve an equal stake in how their country is run. It is they, after all, that make a nation.
Nevertheless, as hard as democracy is to establish, it is harder to maintain. After implementation a successful democracy will have its ample plaudits, but not many nations are lucky enough to hit the nail on the head in terms of providing a democratic rule. Iraq, Congo, Sudan – what if these dictatorial nations were suddenly to become democracies? We wouldn’t see flourishing architecture, economic stability or social benevolence – we would see anarchy. Some nations are just too large and have too much different ethnic diversity to be ruled by anything less than a staunch dictator. How can one hear the voice of the people when everyone shouts for different things? The reason behind why democracy would not work for some countries is often because the country has been artificially cobbled together. Democracy would be possible, but only if these countries are broken down into smaller units capable of supporting a democratic rule. A prime example would be Yugoslavia, once a large dictatorship, now a cluster of individual, contented democratic states consisting the likes of Croatia, Serbia, and Macedonia.
Stability is another factor that can be guaranteed by an established democracy. An elected leader has to take in consideration many views when acting upon something, as opposed to a sole view from a dictator that can be brought about my greed, anger, or resentment, and not by what he believes to be in the best choice of the populace. Let’s face it; Churchill and Roosevelt made far less mistakes than the dictators Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.
However, democracy has some faults than can be seen far more clearly when in practical usage than when in its theoretical stage. The whole intention of democracy is to give everyone a voice, to make everyone’s opinion count. But in the end, it is the majority view that counts. And this is how it has to be; there can never be an action made that pleases everyone. The irony within democracy is that governing by majority will always form minorities – minorities that are often unconsidered and brushed aside. Aren’t these the very minorities that democracy was supposed to aid?
Democracy is all about giving power to individuals, but this also evokes the belief that self-gain is more important than issues such as patriotism or social problems. This is often the case when democracy mingles with capitalism. As the famous quote goes – “When you combine democracy with capitalism, the resulting governmental stew becomes an economy of haves and have-nots.” As opposed to theories such as communism, when people are told that they must act in the good of the nation, democracy allows people to put what is best for solely themselves first, which can be seen in democratic capitalist nations where self-rivalry is high and not everyone can thrive. Economic success may be common in nations like this, but I assure you the wealth is not evenly spread.
It is wrong to assume that democracy is the ‘best’ option for a nation. There are many nations that are coping fine without bearing a democratic insignia on their mantelpiece. Economic-powerhouse China would be a prime example. And if one were to change to democracy, the act is far from instantaneous. Until today, Russia is still recovering from the economic backlash of their dramatic alteration to become democratic over twenty years ago in the 1990s.
There have been many examples of success and failures in implementing democracy in nations across the globe. One successful example of this governing system can be seen in the United Kingdom. Due to the reason that the British previously conquered Malaysia prior to our independence, our democracy structure is also based on United Kingdom’s successful democracy structure. The transfer of power after every election is carried out smoothly, without any riot and chaos, which proves the success of the system that has been implemented in the mentioned countries.
However, there are also real life examples of the failure to implement the democratic system is some countries. For instance, the failure of democracy in India. Factors such as the parliamentary system of the government, corruption, and unorganized election arrangements and also the lack of democratic culture in the country itself contribute to the failure of the implementation of the system in those countries.
The Role of the Citizen in A Democracy
The key role of citizens in a democracy is to participate in public life.
Citizens have an obligation to become informed about public issues, to watch carefully how their political leaders and representatives use their powers, and to express their own opinions and interests.
Voting in elections is another important civic duty of all citizens.
But to vote wisely, each citizen should listen to the views of the different parties and candidates, and then make his or her own decision on whom to support.
Participation can also involve campaigning for a political party or candidate, standing as a candidate for political office, debating public issues, attending community meetingsand membership civic meetings, bably best placed in Article 5 on the Judicial Authority.materials are.pecified.il. ency Council, petitioning the government, and even protesting.
A vital form of participation comes through active membership in independent, non-governmental organizations, what we call “civil society.”
These organizations represent a variety of interests and beliefs: farmers, workers, doctors, teachers, business owners, religious believers, women, students, human rights activists.
It is important that women participate fully both in politics and in civil society.
This requires efforts by civil society organizations to educate women about their democratic rights and responsibilities, improve their political skills, represent their common interests, and involve them in political life.
In a democracy, participation in civic groups should be voluntary. No one should be forced to join an organization against their will.
Political parties are vital organizations in a democracy, and democracy is stronger when citizens become active members of political parties.
However, no one should support a political party because he is pressured or threatened by others. In a democracy, citizens are free to choose which party to support.
Democracy depends on citizen participation in all these ways. But participation must be peaceful, respectful of the law, and tolerant of the different views of other groups and individuals.
In other forms of government:
Form of government
Monarchy- A form of government in which all political power is passed down to an individual (usually hereditary) known as a monarch1 (“single ruler”), or king (male), queen (female).
Oligarchy-A form of government that consists of rule by an elite group who rule in their own interests, especially the accumulation of wealth and privilege. Only certain members of society have a valid voice in the government. This can reflect (but is not limited to) economic interests, a particular religious tradition (theocracy), or familial rule (monarchy).
Restricted to the laws, otherwise are counted as crime.
Totalitarian-Rule by a single political party.
Votes for alternative candidates and parties are simply not allowed.
Citizens are allowed and ‘encouraged’ to vote, but only for the government’s chosen candidates.
Capitalism – In a capitalist or free-market economy, people own their own businesses and property and must buy services for private use, such as healthcare.
Earn and spend money.
1: Monarchy, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarch
How Malaysia achieved democracy
The act of democracy first started off in 11th of May 1946 when the idea of Malayan Union first came about. The aim of the Malayan Union was to combine all scattered administration into one ruling system, assist administration, save expenditure, prepare the locals for their independence, boost economic recovery and progress, however this plan was later abolished in July 1946 by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) led by Datuk Onn bin Ja’far. This was done because Malays were unhappy about the fact that their ruler will lose power which will compensate for loss of Malay power, this was unwanted as the Malays rely on Malaya alone as their mother country however the non-Malay are considered immigrants from other region.
After the Malayan Union was abolished a rise of a new system came about; The Federation of Malaya proposal, compiled by the Malay elites, the various sultans and the British. States involved would be the same as in the Malayan Union however there were new conditions proposed, the new conditions are, Malay cultural domination would be established, Malays would wield political power and the following five principles “The need for strong central government, the need to maintain individuality of each Malay state, the need for new arrangements leading to self-government, common citizenship for those who regarded Malaya as their home and were loyal to her, recognition of the special position of Malays and their rights, which must be safeguarded”
Soon, we will learn that the legislation of democracy will began, as what was being recognized in the past was simply steps towards democracy, however they are merely just different political party fighting for their ethnic rights democratically however they have yet to elect any legislative council members. Until, 27th of July 1955, the first national election for legislative council members was held, which resulted the Alliance which is compromised with the UMNO and MCA to win 51 out of 52 seats and consequently became the government that led the country to independence.
The following page will show you the result of the election from democracy.
Summary of the 27 July 1955 Legislative Council election results
% of vote
% of seats
Pan-Malayan Islamic Party (PMIP)
National Association of Perak (Parti Kebangsaan Perak, NAP)
Perak Malay League (Perikatan Melayu Perak)
Perak Progressive Party (PPP)
Source: The Malayan Elections, Francis G. Carnell.
One Alliance candidate won unopposed.
Democracy In Malaysia
Democracy is a form of government in which the policy is decided by the preference of the majority in a decision-making process, usually elections. Democracy as a form of government always has the following characteristics:
There is a demos, a group which makes political decisions by some form of collective procedure. In modern democracies the demos is the nation, and citizenship is usually equivalent to membership.
There is a territory where the decisions apply, and where the demos are resident. In modern democracies, the territory is the nation-state.
There is a decision-making procedure, which is either direct (for instance a referendum) or indirect (for instance election of a parliament).
An important aspect of the democratic system is elections. Elections in the practice of democracy constitute a social contract between the people and the candidate or party (that succeeds to form a government). The party that wins the election and forms the government should fulfill the party’s promises proclaimed in the election campaign.
At the state level, elected representatives of the people sit in the State Legislative Assembly of each state. At the federal or national level, elected Members of Parliament sit in the Dewan Rakyat or House of Representatives.
There are two types of general election. First, the general election for the whole country, held once in every five years. The next is the by-elections, also considered a general election because the concept of the election itself constitutes the choosing of a representative by the public citizens for the Parliament and the State Legislative Assembly.
There are clear differences between the two types of election. The first type is only held after Parliament or the State Legislative Assembly is dissolved. The by-elections do not involve the dissolution of any of the assembly nor do they follow a fixed schedule. The general election is usually held every 5 years. Prior to carrying out the election, the Yang di-Pertuan Agung must dissolve the Parliament on the advice or at the request of the Prime Minister. This occurs at the federal level. At the State level, a general election is held after the State Legislative Assembly is dissolved by the Ruler or Yang Dipertua Negeri at the request of the Menteri Besar or Chief Minister. As soon as Parliament is dissolved, the elections must be held within 60 days in West Malaysia and within 90 days in Sabah and Sarawak.
The time specified is reasonable for the Election Commission, to prepare the election arrangements and the contesting parties to get ready, hold campaigns and construct definite strategies following the regulations or laws that have been fixed from time to time.
For a general election, after the Yang di-Pertuan Agung dissolves Parliament at the request of the Prime Minister, the Election Commission will issue an order to the Managing Officer to organize the balloting process (election). The responsibility of the Managing Officer is to issue a statement, through the Government Gazette or newspaper, on the date of nomination of candidate for the said election, the place and the time of election for every electoral constituency. The Election Commission also determines the date and place of balloting.
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Any candidate who wishes to contest must obtain a nominator, a seconder and at least four other people, whose names are recorded in the nomination paper. They must also be registered voters in the voters’ register of the constituency where the candidate is contesting. The balloting day can be held after 3 weeks from the date of nomination but cannot exceed 8 weeks. On the balloting day, all voters who qualify to vote can carry out their responsibility by casting their votes in balloting places provided.
Before the balloting day arrives, the contesting parties are allowed to carry out election campaigns through political talks. The freedom of speech and assembly during the campaigns also show that the basic freedom as embodied in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution are protected in the country which practices a democratic system of government.
However, to ensure public security all political talks whether by the party that had held the reins of the government or the opposition, it is necessary to get police approval or permit. For a general election, every voter is given two sheets of ballot papers of different colours; one for the State Legislative Assembly constituency and the other for the Parliamentary constituency.
On each ballot paper are symbols representing the contesting candidates and the space for the voter to make his choice. The responsibility of voting is completed with the voter marking ‘X’ in the space provided against the symbol representing the candidate of the voter’s choice. The ballot papers are put into separate ballot boxes for the Parliamentary constituency and the State Legislative Constituency.
Media in the democracy of Malaysia
Society plays a crucial and the most important role in a democratic system, as they are the ones that hold most “power” in electing new leaders or political bodies. In Malaysia, there are thousands of self-help groups, society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and so on which actively pursue the enforcement of fundamental rights in today’s society which is the foundation for social, economical and cultural activities. Their duty and responsibility is to maintain the balance between politician and citizens. To do so, they would conduct the formal opposition in raising social consciousness of key public issues.
However, these “self-appointed” organizations are often threatened with punishments due to the Internal Security Act and/or other repressive regulations and law. They have thus not yet carved out their own democratic space in the public sphere. Journalists are encountering the same pressure from the same existing repressive acts as other actors of the civil society. Therefore, any printing, newspaper or any other publication firms must have a permit and/or license issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to conduct media, tabloids and news activities. However these permits are valid for only a year and require renewal and they are only granted, if the minister does not consider the publication to be prejudicial and offensive to public order.
Generally, licenses can be awarded and even obtained by very critical periodicals of the political opposition and human rights organizations. Examples include, Aliran Monthly. However, in 1987, permits of four newspapers were suspended due to breaking of regulation and in 1991; the minister forced the party-affiliated periodicals The Rocket (DAP) and Harakah (DAP) to restrict circulation to only party members. This case did not get any better but even until the beginning of the 21st century.
Harakah saw its permit renewed but its output frequency was reduced from eight per month to two. The permit of the weekly tabloid Eksklusif, which reported mostly on opposition parties, was suspended when its publication permit expired. The ministry explained the suspensions are due to “imbalanced reporting” and “non-compliance with publication rules”. During the same year, the privately-financed youth magazine Al-Wasilah, as well as its sister publication Detik had their permits cancelled for giving too much coverage on opposition parties. Furthermore, the ministry’s committee in charge of monitoring publications issued warnings to the Malay language daily Utusan Malaysia for its coverage on the Suqiu election appeals and to the entertainment magazine FHM for a saucy interview with singer Ning Baizura. In October 2000, 14-member Coalition of Independent Media activists petitioned to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) for a repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the abolishment of the practice of awarding permits.
Besides these direct and indirect controls, the government promotes the conduct of “development journalism” which subordinates the media to the concerted efforts of government agencies fostering social stability and economic development. Malaysian newspapers are not uniform in their reporting nor do they express only a single point of view. But they usually abstain from reporting about activities of the political opposition. If they do, then they present these activities in an unfavorable light. Furthermore, there is little critical commentary and analysis of political and economic developments.
ANFREL expressed in its observation mission report its concerns about the biased media coverage of the election campaigns before the general elections in 1999: ANFREL observers were struck by the blatant bias seen in both in the print and electronic media, in favor of the ruling coalition. Both Bahasa and English-language newspapers ran full-page ads, some of which used reworked or faked photos, aimed at showing the opposition in a bad light. As well, stories alleging corruption and sexual impropriety were widely circulated in the government- controlled press. Man of these newspapers refused to publish opposition advertisements, or run coverage of its campaign. Similarly, television advertisements and coverage were BN exclusive. The members of the Malaysian middle class especially, are increasingly disappointed with this lack of critical commentary and political analysis. They turn to foreign media as well as the alternative press within Malaysia.
In summary, a democracy is a political system where the people are placed at utmost importance, and with this being a key factor to drive the country, there is a stronger potential for economic growth and the opportunities for political uprisings are reduced as the people are deciding what happens.
Most modern countries are democracies; the prime example is the United States, which has a fixed election system every 4 years and a reigning democratic party. Other countries such as China and India do follow democratic policy, however due to large populations and mixed voting procedures, the reigning party is said to be more controlling and less democratic. In this aspect, whilst most of the world today is democratic (albeit the communist and semi communist countries of North Korea and Chile) still do have some control by the government, which is influenced and selected by the people.
In Malaysia, the reigning party is Barisan Nasional, which is considered the more democratic party of the few. Again, there is a general election every 4 years, where the party is elected. Unlike other countries, however, the people do not choose the individual person to win, but the political party. In recent years there has been an increase in support for the republic party, but this is being held of at present.
Either way, the fact that there is a general election held every 4 years, unlike in India and China, this proves a democratic government is significant.
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