Paper 71: Democracy vs Pseudo Democracy

NDi issues Position Paper 71 on Democracy and Pseudo-Democracy

Nigeria and other African nations stand the best chance at growth and development if they overcome the temptation to default to pseudo-democracy as de-facto national norms.

The NDi defines a pseudo-democracy as a system of government in place in any nation that outwardly (or on paper) claims to be a democracy while in practice grants only partial or no real empowerment to the citizens to determine their leadership through fair and competitive means in an equal opportunity environment thereby inhibiting spontaneity and stifling leadership turnover. Such a nation is a pseudo-democratic nation.

A major characteristic of a pseudo-democracy is the capacity of a few to choreograph political outcomes.

“Pseudo-Democratic: describes a political system which calls itself democratic, but offers no real choice for the citizens. This lack of choice can come from limited amount of diverse parties eligible for a vote, cemented power structures which are not really affected by any vote, no availability of a voting option “none of the above” for voters who favour change to the current political landscape, no direct democratic means, et cetera …” – Online Nation.

NDi 6 Factors
The NDi lists the following as key ingredients of pseudo democracies:
1. Ownership of political parties by ‘powerful’ interests, individuals, syndicates and or cabals.
2. Determination of party leadership by a few powerful or privileged people rather than recourse to the ordinary folks.
3. Determination of party flag-bearers in public elections by a few powerful or privileged persons rather than recourse to the ordinary folks.
4. Preference for consensus by privileged party leaders rather than subject aspirants to an equal opportunity free and fair political contests.
5. Mobilization of security personnel and electoral officers to provide tacit support for anointed candidates during elections.
6. Concentration of means of accessing economic wealth in the hands of a privileged few.

Once one or more of the above listed factors are actively in place (as the norm and not as an exception), the outcome of such ‘democracies’ becomes predictable and violent while it is not uncommon for it to be met with apathy by the citizens. Pseudo democracies are also often characterized by the presence of weak institutions even though the presence of ‘strong men’ or ‘powerful controllers’ are never in short supplies. These strong men rely on their unencumbered capacity to determine ownership of political structures and parties as well as their ability to decide the outcome of elections for survival. Sometimes, some of them might exhibit a tendency that suggests magnanimity towards the populace, but this is often a camouflage and a cover for the usurpation of the right of the people to determine their political destinies. Genuine democracies do not require the magnanimity of individuals to the citizens, rather it is the individual seeking leadership position that is at the mercy of the citizens thereby forcing those in leadership to defer to the citizens rather than deferring to a few powerful men.

Against the reality of the fact that political power determines access to economic empowerment and well-being in most developing countries, the scenario of pseudo democracies would ultimately concentrate means of accessing economic wealth in the hands of a privileged or favoured few to the detriment of the majority.

NDi affirms that genuine democracy offers the best chance for the development of Africa and that true democracy must have justice and equity as core values.

VISIT Maximiliano Herrera’s Human Rights Site for a list of countries with Electoral Democracies and Pseudo-Democracies and spot the position or status of your country.

This paper can be cited as shown below:
NDi (2012), Paper 71: Democracy vs Pseudo Democracy, available at  http://www.nd-i.org/?p=423
The shortlink to this paper is http://www.nd-i.org/?p=423

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