In part one, I tried to explain the long march to search an ideology that has a potential to answer my quest of Eritrean mindset and why an ideology is a necessary tool to comeout with a vision that can be defined ideologically. In the discourse, I created a triangular shape (as shown in figure below) of drawing human activities based on a political philosophy and an ideology produced. And in all these phases, human being is the main actor in framing its own ideology and the master head of all activities based on the projects available.
In this second part, I will discuss what Liberal Democracy is and what values are encompassed within its basic principles. By doing so, I will try to create the link between Eritrean needs and the values that can be obtained from adopting Liberal Democracy.
Liberal Democracy: Definition
Liberal democracy is a democratic system of government in which individual rights and freedoms are officially recognized and protected, and the exercise of political power is limited by the rule of law. (Source: Oxford Living Dictionaries).
From this definition, those who embrace liberal democracy vow to protect individual rights. By protecting these individuals, it gives freedom of the over all society through mutual respect. This is crucial political stand that is highly demanded in countries where individual freedom is absent and mutual respect does not exist or is in danger.
In addition, liberal democracy encourages political, social and economic competition between political parties and pressure groups(such as civic societies and NGOs).
Basic Beliefs of Liberal Democracy
1. Universal Suffrage
Liberal democracy believes that the government to be formed gets its legitimacy from the people through regular elections (Universal Suffrage). All citizens who are legitimate to elect, attend regular voting in a fair, free and competitive elections to elect their good candidate in a secret ballot regardless of race, gender or property ownership. And the candidate who gets the highest vote takes responsibility to govern the government. The elected government is accountable to the people for what it does, with Parliament holding it accountable.
2. Separation of Power
To define the system in practice, liberal democracy draws upon a constitution, either formally written or uncodified, to delineate the powers of government and enshrine the social contract. Liberal democracy stresses on the separation of powers, an independent judiciary and a system of checks and balances between branches of government.
The constitution defines the democratic character of the state. The purpose of a constitution is often seen as a limit on the authority of the government.
3. Human Rights, Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and Political Freedom
Liberal Democrats believe that equal protection of human rights, civil rights, civil liberties and political freedoms for all people must be gauranteed under the constitution and the law to be written must protect these rights.
4. Freedom of Press and Free Speech
Freedom of press and free speech is guaranteed. A central aim of liberal democracy as a system is that it tries to create more trasparent governance system and freedom of expression of thoughts that encourages citizens to engage at all levels. Freedom of press is also a vital component in the chech-and-balance mechanism of the goverment actions by bringing important issues to the public attention. It can also be used as a tool to fight against corruption by allowing different actors to play an active role in exposing the government system.
5. Freedom of Movement
Liberal democrats believes that citizens have full freedom to movement within and outside the country. There is no question that how absence of freedom of movement limits people’s freedom to live freely and work for their economic well being.
Absence of freedom of movement is the worst form of violating human rights. Therefore, liberal democrats have genuine political interest to gaurantee citizens their absolute feeedom for movement. By doing so, individuals have an advantage of looking opportunities that might not be available in their local areas.
Today, there are security issues which are putting some scrunity procedures that may affect the kind of freedom of movement advocated by liberal democtats for the last two centures.
6. Free and Competitive Market
Since the introduction of liberal democracy as a political system, the world has witnessed massive increase in wealth across nations and advancement in living standard. People were allowed to own properties and make profit on sell. Trade between countries became simplified and predictable. And industrialization expoded massively to produce commodities for profite making. Investors got new freedom to look business opportunities via opportunity costs and resource driven expansions.
In this regard, there is no doubt for a necessity to embrace liberal democracy as it is the sole political ideology that gaurantees market freedom. Though, there is critics towards it as the main cause of economic stratification among citizens, it is strong system that can provide opportunities for hard working people.
Without transparency, there is no accountability. Therefore, it is crucial to build a system that allows transparency. Citizens and press have a right to get information about their country. And information sharing is vital in the life of every citizen.
According to principles of liberal democracy, the degree of transparency defines the level of government quality. The more the transparency is, the more accountable it becomes.
Liberal democrats believe that each state has a sovereign power to govern its internal affairs without outside intereference where the sovereignity is safeguarded and protected under international laws. Having such self governing power, it gives a relative gaurantee from alien forces by providing formal and legitimate recognition.
As liberal democrats believe on international treaties and mutual respect between sovereign states, sovereignity has insignificant incidences to be endangered by outside forces unless internal political dynamism leads to state failures leading to division. In case of disputes, the international community has a legitimate mandate to safeguard the sovereignity based on state demand and bring a peaceful resolution.
Having this kind of sovereign power, it gives the government to focus on improving the livehood of citizens without significant external threats and pressure unless.
Here, it is important to mention sovereignity does not mean isolation. The country has national and international obligations to fulfill the rights of its citizens.
9. Rule of Law
Liberal democrats strongly believe that law should govern a sovereign nation. By doing so, they refer to the influence and authority of law within society. Individual decisions has no room in governance unles it follows proper law abiding processes.
Freedom in soceity is only subjected to laws made by a legistlative body that apply to every individual citizen on equal basis without restricting upon liberty.
Liberal democratic countries may differ on the way they apply rule of law. However, as principle, international treaties and agreemets have a central focus to incorporate with their domestic laws. And Constitution becomes the supreme legal reference in writing domestic laws and limiting government power. For example, France puts International Regulations as top reference in applying Rule of Law. As shown in Figure below, national Constitution becomes second to International conventions and laws are outsourced from this domestic constitution.
Liberal Democratic Countries
Today, most advanced countries are liberal democrats. According to the Freedom house countries that fall in this category are:
Europe: the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland,
Asia: Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Israel
North America: the United States, Canada, Mexico,
South America: Uruguay, Costa Rica,
Africa: South Africa,
Australia and New Zealand.
It is not a surprise to have only one country as a liberal democrat in the continent of Africa. It is the prime prove to know how much liberal democracy is in creating an advanced country. Africans had
Liberal Democracy and Eritrea
It is quite known that today Eritrea is under absolute dictatorship. The notion democracy is an alien word. In recent reports of United Nations Human Rights Council, Eritrean regime is committing widespread and systematic violations that amounted to serious crimes againist humanity. It is therefore an obsolute to talk about liberal democracy.
At the same time, there are significant forces that are fighting against the dictatrial regime to remove it from power and replace it by a democratic government. Nevertheless, there is no concrete political ideology to fight with to restore human freedom and create a government that respects Rule of Law.
Many actors in the opposition camp are conservative leaning to nationalist ideology with some reminants of socialist forces. Today, due to lack of well defined ideology, the opposition camp is found in political chaos. Some extremists are also hatching based on identity and regional politics.
So far, there was no political force that openly claims itself as a Liberal Democrat. Therefore, it is a historical record to claim myself as a Liberal democrat.
Being a liberal democrat is freedom by itself. This self attained freedom will give power to inject liberal democratic values in the conservative society and thereby to change the dictatorial government we have into a liberal one.