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ELECTIONS AND ELECTION SYSTEMS

Citizens hold power vis-à-vis a single ballot; but must also stay engaged before and after elections in order to hold their elected officials accountable for their promises. Listen or read this excerpt from page 34 of the English for NGOs Student’s Edition.

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Audio Transcript for ELECTIONS AND ELECTION SYSTEMS

Maintaining a constant connection with the people is crucial for the functioning of a representative democracy. This can be facilitated through periodic elections, or applying a form of direct democracy – a referendum. The election of representatives to positions of power is a requisite for accountability toward the electorate. It is important for citizens to understand the power they hold vis-à-vis a single ballot; it is equally important, however, for citizens to stay engaged before and after elections in order to hold their elected officials accountable for their promises. Citizens should always remember that their representative are chosen by them and that they pay the salaries of their representatives (by paying taxes).

In modern representative democracy decision-making, the majority prevails. However, this does not mean unlimited power in the hands of the majority. Democracy should not serve only the majority, but also protect the dignity and freedom of each and every member of society, including the minority (that is, religious, ethnic, sexual, and political minorities, among< others). Therefore, the majority functions under the law, and strives to balance individual rights and powers so that the powers of the majority do not infringe on the rights of a minority. The protection of human rights and the separation of powers are critical elements of modern >democracy. Typical elements of a representative democracy, such as periodic elections and government checks and balances, do not fully ensure an effective relationship with the source of power – the people. For this reason, in addition to institutions like the judiciary and the parliament, it is also very important to maintain cooperation between the state and society. A society actively involved in government processes acquires a sense of responsibility and a feeling of being a part of a state.

The expression (the vote) of people’s views on any issue can be done in two ways, and accordingly, there are two forms of democracy: direct and representative. In the first case (direct democracy), it is the citizens who decide on societal problems that are of direct interest to them by means of voting, rather than elected or assigned officials. An essential condition for using this tool is a comparatively small number of voters and issues submitted to the agenda that do not require a lot of the voters’ time and energy. Direct democracy can be implemented, for example, at village meetings or at general meetings of local organizations of trade unions, political parties, etc. Modern democracy is mostly representative: citizens directly elect their representatives who, in turn, make political decisions, create laws, develop policies and strategies, and contribute toward their implementation.< The manner of people’s participation in exercising political authority, including by means of direct democracy, when citizens solve important political, state, and public issues not through he agency (the parliament) but directly, by themselves, is established by the Constitution. The< forms of direct democracy are elections and referendum.