Dr Shirin S Chaudhury, Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament, stresses that every effort must be made to allow people-centred, participatory democracy to develop and flourish in the Commonwealth.
Democracy, perceived as a superior form of governance, came to dominate the world throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Having emerged out of a discourse of 2,500 years, the debate continues as to whether democracy has been able to win the contest against its pre-modern rivals – centralised monarchy, hereditary aristocracy and oligarchy. Yet, as Aung San Suu Kyi has said, “Freedom and democracy are dreams you never give up.”
Tracing the evolution of democracy reveals the differing stages of its development in each Commonwealth country. While some countries have a history of nascent democracy, others cherish long-established democratic parliamentary governments with diverse challenges.
While new democratic governments face the challenge of strengthening and institutionalising democracy, for older democracies the question is how to deepen their roots.
Democracy based on the principle of intrinsic equality (giving equal consideration to the goods and interests of every individual bound by those decisions) has gained currency. Embracing political equality (purporting to guarantee every individual equal and effective opportunity of participation through an equal counting of vote) as a fundamental tenet has given democracy recognition as a pre-eminently acceptable form of government. It rests on the notion that legitimacy of the authority of the government emanates from the will of the people.
*Statistics within article correct at time of originial publication of Ministers Reference Book: Commonwealth 2015.
Dr Shirin S Chaudhury
Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament