Meaning of Democracy
The word “democracy” comes from the Greek language and means “rule of the people.” The issues of democracy have been discussed for several thousand years, but a definition of this concept with which everyone would agree has not been found. This can partly be explained by the fact that democracy is constantly evolving and changing. However, many would agree that democracy has certain characteristics, such as equality of people in dignity and rights, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech and press, equality before the law, and the holding of free elections.
In a democratic society with general and free elections, those with the right to vote can vote for their desired party and for politicians who will make decisions at the state, regional and local levels. Politicians and parties with more votes, that is, with the majority of votes, can decide more (Landemore, 2020). Elected politicians represent voters, and this is why such a system is called representative democracy (Landemore, 2020). Representative democracy is the usual form of government in the world today, and it is precisely this form that exists in Sweden.
While the majority in a democracy makes decisions, minorities also have rights that the majority cannot so easily ignore. The basic principle of a democratic society is that exercising power is inseparable from observing human rights (Landemore, 2020). General elections are the main instrument of influencing residents on the government of the country. Strengthening democracy occurs both through the highest possible participation in general elections and through the participation of people in public organizations and political discussions with friends and colleagues. People must also turn to politicians and express their opinion to them (Przeworski, 2019). The more a country’s residents participate in voting, the higher the likelihood that the policy pursued is in the interests of the majority.
However, the population’s participation in general elections is not enough to develop a democratic society. What happens between elections is also important for the effectiveness of democracy (Przeworski, 2019). Democracy is based on mutually respectful dialogue. Therefore, it is important to listen carefully to someone else’s opinion and express your own. An important condition for an effective democracy is that everyone in the country feels like a part of society (Przeworski, 2019). People in a country must not only influence the course of the general elections but also have the opportunity to influence their daily life – at school, at work, in the community and in the family.
In modern society, it is important to discuss what democracy is. The end of such discussions may indicate the loss of the importance of democracy for a large part of the population, which is a sign of weakening democracy. In crisis situations, it may be necessary to make quick decisions to prevent a worsening situation (Shaffer, 2018). Under a dictatorship, people can end up in jail or concentration camps because of their beliefs or ethnicity (Shaffer, 2018). Democracy and peace are relevant when people from different countries communicate and maintain trade relations with each other.
Democracy of 1992
1992 became a turning point in the images of the way of life of many states of Eastern Europe. The fact is that such states were affected by the creation of the USSR and the uniqueness of the metropolitanate, which is characterized by pessimism (Roberts, 2017). Therefore, the democratization of society in this territory is not standard, which must be considered in the example of some states. Nevertheless, 1992 proved to be extremely effective in the process of introducing the constitution and changing the state structure.
In Czechoslovakia, the adoption of a constitution turned out to be impossible due to the disintegration of the country. Legislative institutions were reconstructed on the basis of roundtable discussions prior to the new elections in 1990 (Roberts, 2017). Following the June 1992 elections, Vaclav Klaus and Vladimir Meciar became prime ministers of the Czech and Slovak federal republics, respectively, receiving tangible support from their parties (Rupnik et al., 2003). The polarity of political orientations and disputes about Czechoslovak unity in the new federal republic – intensified during the elections and soon led to a “velvet divorce” (Rupnik et al., 2003). In July 1992, the Slovak National Council passed a unilateral declaration of sovereignty, and V. Havel resigned as federal president. The Czech constitution was adopted in December 1992 and entered into force on January 1, 1993 (Rupnik et al., 2003). The Slovak constitution, creating a sovereign Slovak state, was adopted in September 1992 and entered into force on October 1, 1992. Slovak parliamentarism is regarded as relatively weak, the decision of the parliament often depends on the position of the Legislative Council of the government. The Prime Minister has an unusually broad legislative power, and the division of power between the President and the Prime Minister is generally vague. The 1993 Constitution of the Czech Republic created a bicameral parliament similar to that which existed during the interwar period (Tilly, 2007). However, the introduction of a bicameral parliament, in which both chambers had approximately equal legislative powers, was a controversial step for a state that was no longer federal.
In Poland, a multi-stage process of adopting constitutions took place. Despite the fact that the communist dictatorship was quite radically rejected, conflicts between parties did not allow a quick adoption of the constitution. In the seven years leading up to the adoption of the 1997 Constitution, the interim constitution was provided first by the amendment of April 7, 1989, to the 1952 Constitution and then by the “Minor Constitution” of October 17, 1992 (Bernard, 2015, p. 15). Thanks to the creation of a temporary coalition, it was possible to adopt a “small constitution” and a law on the development of a large constitution, which, however, postponed the adoption of the latter for an indefinite future (Bernard, 2015). At this time, the idea was put forward of the gradual adoption of the constitution in parts – supplementing the “minor constitution” with basic laws such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, laws on the judiciary, and the Constitutional Tribunal. As a result, the constitutional order had to resemble Hungarian or British. Thus, Poland was characterized by an evolutionary approach to the development of a constitution. In this sense, it missed the revolutionary “constitutional moment” that arises in the conditions of the collapse of old institutions and the realization of mass aspirations (Tilly, 2007). If the constitution had been adopted immediately after 1989, the creation of new institutions would have been easier, and, possibly, the subsequent confrontation could have been avoided.
On August 16, 1999, the State Duma approved Vladimir Putin as prime minister. A week earlier, Yeltsin had named the young FSB director his successor. The appointment of a successor became the precedent that laid the foundation for all of Putin’s subsequent rule and the political situation under him. Researchers of political science call the 90s of the XX century in Russia a period of transit or transition (Laruelle, 2020). These terms describe the state of the state when it changes its political system from authoritarian to, presumably, more democratic. So, all the republics of the former USSR that became independent countries passed through transit at that time (Laruelle, 2020). Some post-Soviet states did not even try to become democracies and turned into personalistic autocracies, while others actually made a choice in favor of democratic freedoms and fair elections.
Russia stands out from this series by the fact that the 90s, at least formally, were devoted here to the building of democracy and the free market. Russian officials still describe the country as a successful and free democracy, but it is clear that it is not. The researchers name two Russian presidents, Yeltsin and Putin, as key figures in this “failure of democratization” (Kortukov, 2020). In 2005, a well-known researcher of Russian politics, a professor at the University of Berkeley, Stephen Fish, released the study “Democracy in Russia Derailed,” which is considered the main work on the problems of democracy in this country (Kortukov, 2020). Nevertheless, it is worth emphasizing that instead of democracy, oligarchism eventually emerged in Russia.
Russia has not just exchanged one form of monocracy for another since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Falsification, coercion, and arbitrary disqualification of candidates are frequent and pervasive features of elections in post-Soviet Russia (Greene and Robertson, 2019). The right to freedom of speech and the right to freedom of association are essential requirements for the free formation and expression of the population’s political preferences. These conditions took control of political life from the hands of the electorate as a whole and transferred it to a limited layer of officials who manipulated the process for their own purposes.
The government apparatus in Russia has taken all the levers of political control, curtailing the autonomy and independence of the Duma, the Federation Council, and regional legislative assemblies and governors. The number of non-state media outlets has dropped sharply, increased prosecutions have helped silence freedom of journalistic expression, and state-controlled television increasingly resembles Soviet-era, carefully filtered propaganda (Greene and Robertson, 2019). The ever-growing number of security officials in key positions across the country has put an end to open debate, diversity of views and the gradual formation of civil society (Greene and Robertson, 2019). Violators of human rights, especially in Chechnya, act with complete impunity. It follows from this that Russia as a state has departed from democratic principles.
Bernard, M. (2015). The Moore thesis: what’s left after 1989? Democratization, vol.23. Web.
Greene, S. A. & Robertson, G. B. (2019). Putin v. the people: The perilous politics of a divided Russia. Web.
Kortukov, D. (2020). ‘Sovereign democracy and the politics of ideology in Putin’s Russia. Russian Politics. Web.
Landemore, H. (2020). Open democracy. Reinventing popular rule for the twenty-first century. Princeton University Press.
Laruelle, M. (2020). Making sense of Russia’s liberalism. Journal of Democracy, vol. 3. Web.
Przeworski, A. (2019). Crises of democracy. Cambridge University Press.
Roberts, A. (2017). The Routledge handbook of east European Politics. Taylor & Francis.
Rupnik, J., Zielonka, J. & Pettai, V. (2003). The road to the European Union. Manchester University Press.
Shaffer, F. C. (2018). Democracy in Translation: Understanding politics in an unfamiliar culture. Cornell University Press.
Tilly, C. (2007). Democracy. Cambridge University Press.