No nation can be said to be a true democratic nation if the pillars of democracy are not present and effective in that nation. This is so because, the pillars of democracy are the most essential in every democratic government.
Consequent upon this, any nation that lacks the essential pillars of democracy which actively foster democracy, will not be able to practice true democracy. No doubt, that nation will fall short of many of the features of democracy.
In this article, i will disclose the 4 essential pillars of democracy you need to know. Coupled with that, i will explain each of the pillars mentioned to give you a comprehensive knowledge of how all these pillars help to ensure democracy in the government.
Trust me; you will enjoy reading this article. Meanwhile, before i move to the kernel of this article, i would like to explain what the term “democracy” is all about.
What is democracy?
According to Wikipedia, democracy is a system of government where citizens are allowed to exercise their power by voting. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) defined Democracy as the government of the people, by the people, for the people. By this, Abraham Lincoln was trying to say that in a democratic state, the citizens are the Supreme.
It is worthy to note that, there are two types of democracy namely; direct democracy and representative democracy. Direct democracy is a kind of democracy where the citizens are allowed to participate in the decision making of the state directly.
On the other hand, representative democracy is a kind of democracy where citizens elect a particular person to make political decisions on their behalf.
- Past leaders of Nigeria from 1914 till date
- Advantages and disadvantages of an unwritten constitution
- Advantages and disadvantages of a federal system of government
- Merits and demerits of unitary system of government
Pillars of democracy
Just as I explained at the beginning of this article, the term “Pillars of democracy” is referring to those important bodies in every that fosters the practice of democracy in that nation. Thus, where there is the absence of any of the pillars of democracy in a nation, that nation will not effectively practice democracy.
Basically, there are 4 essential pillars of democracy, which are:
- The Legislature;
- The executive;
- The Judiciary;
- Mass media;
Those are the major pillars of democracy a nation. These pillars of democracy will be clearly explained with their functions given as we continue.
Also read: History of Nigeria’s legal system
1. The legislature:
One of the features of a democratic state is the principle separation of powers. As you may know, Separation of Powers is a political theory that postulates that political powers of the state should be shared amongst the organs of government. Consequently, it is impossible for any democratic state to stand without a clear separation of powers between the arms of government.
The legislature is one of the arms of government and as such it is undoubtedly one of the major pillars of democracy. The legislature is the arm of government that is responsible for making laws in the state. It is a very important pillar of democracy because it plays one of the core roles that hold any democratic state, which is law-making.
Aside from making laws, the legislature equally has other functions it plays in the government. For instance, the legislature has the function to deliberate and give decisions on issues that affects the state when such issues arise. This is known as the deliberative function of the legislature. Accordingly, members of the legislature also play representative function as their decision affacts the whole nation.
A very important function of the legislative pillar of the government is the oversight function, which is provided in section 88 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. The Legislature of the United States also have this function as well.
It worthwhile to note that there are basically two types of legislature namely; Bicameral Legislature and Unicameral legislature. A bicameral legislature is a type of legislative houses (Upper and lower house). However, a Unicameral legislature has just one legislative house.
Members of the any of these leglislative houses are called legislators. Believe it or not, the legislature is one of the major pillars of democracy, thus, it is indispensable in every true democratic state.
2. The executive:
Another important pillar of democracy is the executive. The executive is also an indispensable pillar of democracy because it forms part of the three branches of government in a separation of power, which is key in every democratic state.
It is worthwhile to note that the executive is the only arm of the government that is responsible for implementing and executing laws which were made by the legislative arm of government. This is the basic and most important function of the executive pillar of democracy.
It should be noted that even though the executive does not have power to make laws or interpret the law as in the case judicial function, the executive can make decrees and edits for the state. This is obtainable in a democratic form of government.
In a democracy, the executive powers are usually vest on the president or governor, who is also given the power to make appointments of persons who will work with him (Minister).
Subject to the approval of the legislature, the ministers will work in different sectors of the country and will always report back to the person who appointed them.
The executive is a very essential and indispensable pillar of the government. It is indispensable because, there can be not clear separation of powers where this organ is not present or fused with another organ of the government. Thus, it is one of the four major pillars of democracy.
3. The Judiciary:
The last pillar of democracy that is also a branch of the government is the judiciary. According to Wikipedia, the Judiciary can also be referred to as judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, Judiciative Branch, court system.
As a very important pillar of democracy, the judiciary is popularly known as the last hope of the common man. Evidently, there can’t be democracy without the judiciary. This powers are usually vested in the court.
In a democratic state, there is always Supremacy of the law above every person in the political system. The work of the judiciary is to interpret what they law say in every situation and give judgment on it. The judgements of the judiciary will then be enforced by the executive.
In my view, the judiciary is the most important and strongest pillar of democracy because it is by performing the functions of the judiciary that there can be rule of law.
Note that the court also have the power to review the activities of other arms of government and declare it valid, null or void, based on the provisions of the constitution. This is basically why the judiciary is important in a democratic.
4. Mass media
According to Wikipedia, Mass media refers to a diverse array of media that reach a large audience via mass communication. Mass media plays a very important role in a democratic government. In fact, if there is no problem of the press in the constitution of any democratic state, then there is no true democracy in that state.
For instance, in section 39 of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, there is the provision that:
“Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart idea and information without interference.”
Accordingly, in the United States (US), freedom to use mass media is legally provided for in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This is tell you how important it is in a democratic state.
Undoubtedly, accountability and efficiency are one of the tenates of democracy. It is through the mass media that these tenates of democracy can be ensured.
When the media makes the actions of the government known to the government public, the government will try to make sure that they represent the people well; knowing very well that the people, which they represent are watching them.
This is apparently why the media is very important in a democratic government. It is not one of the organs of the government but it brings the people closer to the general by disseminating information that concerns the state at every time.
Okay! There you have a comprehensive explanation of the pillars of democracy and how they work to ensure democracy in the government.
I must also emphasize the fact that it is not sufficient for these pillars to be present in the government. They must also be active and effective. For instance, even if the mass media exist in the government, it must be given its freedom to disseminate information to every part of the nation. True democracy can not be actualized where any of the above is absent.
Hope this article was helpful? I would like to hear from you if you have any question or contribution to this topic.