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How reflective is democracy

6 May 2007

What is democracy? The dictionary offers this definition

1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
2.
A political or social unit that has such a government.
3.
The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
4.
Majority rule.
5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community

Take a look at definiton 4 – “Majority Rule”. If we look at the French presidential election from today:

  • 85.5% of the electorate turn out to vote
  • The winner, Sarkozy, gets 53% of the vote
  • This means that 55% of the electorate did not vote for the winner.

Arguably, of those who did turn out to vote, a majority of the voters voted for the winner. But this does not reflect the majority of the electorate (remember that 14.5% didn’t vote, and would mean they abstained), so still the majority of the potential electorate didn’t vote for the winner. Most democratic governments are the same – a clear majority of voters do not necessarily vote for the “winner”.

But this problem will always remain until an alternative is found, until that time we must ask how democratic, or rather reflective of the majority of the people, is democracy. We are conditioned to believe that voting is better than not being able to vote, but when there is not majority rule, with respect to the potential electorate, than can we believe this. Unless someone comes up with an acceptable alternative that is truly reflective of all votes made and inclusive of all the electorate then we will always be governed by the minority will of the voters.

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