Democracy and Political Participation

A detailed mindmap on everything (If I have missed anything from it please comment below) on Unit 1 Topic 1: Democracy and Political Participation in Edexcel AS Politics.

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  • Democracy and Political Participation
    • Definitions
      • Democracy
        • A political system based on the idea that government should serve the interests of the people.
        • Direct Democracy
          • The people themselves directly make the important decisions which affect them
          • The people are directly consulted on political decisions
          • Action taken by the people shapes political decisions (via protests, strikes, E-Petitions)
            • E-petitions
              • 10,000 + = written statement in response – forces government to be accountable
              • 100,000 + = eligible for House of Commons debate
          • Advantages
            • Decisions may be more accepted
            • Disperses power widely among population
            • Increases democracy as it increases participation
            • Purest form of democracy
          • Disadvantages
            • Direct Democracy = Tyranny of the majority
            • Many decisions may be too complex for the people to understand
            • Can create emotional rather than rational responses from the people
            • Undermines the role of elected representatives
        • Representative Democracy
          • The people elect representatives from different political parties to form an assembly which represent the people
          • These representatives form an assembly which reflects the will of the people
          • Representatives govern in the interests of all sections of society
          • How should a representative act?
            • Burkean Representaiton
              • Use their own judgement rather than follow the exact wishes of their electors or party
            • Delegation
              • Follow very closely the wishes of those who elected the representative
            • Parliamentary Representation
              • Representatives should strike a balance between their own judgement, the wishes of their electors and the policies of their political party
          • Features of a representative democracy
            • There are free elections to representative assemblies
            • There government rule ‘for the people’
            • Political associations and pressure groups operate freely and represent various causes, believes and interest groups
            • The rule of law
          • Advantages
            • Representatives are accountable and therefore act responsibly
            • Representatives may have superior experience to the general population
            • Representatives more likely to make rational judgements
          • Disadvantages
            • Party representation prevents representatives acting independently 
            • Representative democracy is only ‘fair’ if elections are ‘fair
            • Representatives may not accurately reflect the opinions of the wider population
          • Representative Democracy in the UK
            • MPs represent their constituencies
              • E.g - Tom Brake = MP for Carshalton and Wallington – fought on behalf of constituents to stop St.Helier being closed
            • The Houses of Parliament represent different views in society
              • E.g - In recent debates on tuition fees, MPs have represented the views of students, universities and business leaders
            • Mainstream parties represent the whole nation
              • E.g -Labour claim to represent  ‘the national interest’ rather than just the interest of one social class – “the one-nation party” – Ed Milliband
            • Pressure Groups tend to represent different interests
              • E.g - The Countryside Alliance represented the views of their members against Tony Blair’s Labour government
            • The media represents their readers views
              • E.g - The Daily Mail represents the anti-immigration views of its readers
          • Criticisms of Representative Democracy in the UK
            • Elections to the UK parliament are unfair, with some parties being over-represented (Labour) and some being under-represented (Liberal Democrats)
            • HOL has considerable power, but is not electedeing under-represented (Liberal Democrats)
            • Some pressure groups are more powerful than others under-represented (Liberal Democrats)
            • Reduces accountability of the government under-represented (Liberal Democrats)
            • No clear link to MEPs /body> under-represented (Liberal Democrats)
            • Governments are not truly representative as they are always elected with the minority of the electorates vote.
              • E.g – 2005-2010 Labour government was elected with only 35% of the popular vote
        • Liberal Democracy
          • Normally incorporates a bill of rights to protect the interests of individuals and minorities
          • Power is normally divided and separated – ‘separation of powers’ distributes power between different branches of government
          • There is a system of ‘checks and balances’ that allows these branches to control each others powers 
          • Strong safeguards on freedoms control each others powers 
          • Tolerant society
          • Is the UK a liberal democracy?
            • Features that conform
              • There are free regular and fair elections
              • Government is accountable to the people and parliament
              • Parties and pressure groups are tolerated
            • Features that do not conform
              • No codified and entrenched constitution
              • House of Lords and Head of State is not elected
              • PM has arbitrary powers
            • Mixed conformity
              • Elections by FPTP are seen as unfair
              • Rights are protected by can be set aside my Parliament
              • No separation of powers between the legislature and executive (govt)
        • Parliamentary Democracy
          • Representative democracy in the UK is often described as parliamentary democracy because parliament dominates the political system and representation traditionally occurs through parliament.
          • Parliament is sovereign and has ultimate power
          • Laws will only be enforced if legitimised by the UK parliament
          • Government is drawn from parliament
          • Parliament ensures the geographical and social representation of all parts of the UK
        • Pluralist Democracy
          • Minority cultures and ideas are tolerated
          • Power is widely dispersed
          • A wider range of groups and ideologies can flourish
          • Views are protected
          • Different views compete with and balance each other
        • Is there a democratic deficit in the UK?
          • Yes
            • Apathy and feel of disconnection from politics
            • House of Lords is unelected, mostly appointed – not given consent
            • Low turnout at elections – population has not given consent and so threatens legitimacy and theory of the mandate
              • E.g -59% 2001 general election
            • Parliament and devolved assemblies are not socially represented – women less represented and views not accounted for
          • No
            • More proportional systems – more coalitions and therefore more party representation
            • Healthy party competition – three parties wield in the HOC and devolved assemblies are even more competitive
            • More referendum use – direct democracy and people making decisions
            • Free and fair elections – there is a real choice of parties and free press and media
        • Has the UK political system become more democratic in recent years?
          • Yes
            • Increased membership of pressure group
              • E.g – New social movements like Occupy
            • Use of more proportional systems to elect representatives
              • E.g. – PR – STV and Party List
            • Devolution
            • Increased use of referendums
              • E.g – 2011 AV Referendum = NO
          • No
            • Unelected HOL and Head of State
            • Low turnout and low party membership
            • No English devoution
            • Parliament is not socially representative
              • E.g – women and minority views not accounted for
            • Some pressure groups are not internally democratic
              • E.g – FA Chairman is appointed not elected by its members
      • Legitimacy
        • The extent to which a government has the right to rule and exercise power. 
      • Power
        • The ability to make someone do something that they would not do of their own free will
        • For example: Coercion: The use of force to achieve ends -> The military
      • Authority
        • The right to exercise power (based on the consent of those being ruled)
        • For example: Legal / Rational = HOC Traditional = HOL
    • Modern Democracies have...
      • The government is accountable to the people
      • Political tolerance
      • The rule of law
      • Free, fair and regular elections
      • Freedom of the media
      • Peaceful transition of power
    • What makes a government legitimate?
      • Referendums ('Yes' answers)
      • High turnout rates
      • Free, fair and regular elections
      • Lack of dissent
      • Displays of public support
    • How legitimate is the UK?
      • Legitimate
        • HOC is elected
        • Government is elected with the mandate to govern
        • HOL has traditional authority and political influence is widely recognised
      • Not legitimate
        • The electoral system (FPTP) is unfair and distorts political representation
        • Every government elected has only achieved the minority of the popular vote
        • House of Lords members are not elected and so do not have the people’s consent
    • Political Participation in the UK
      • Joining a political party / pressure group
      • Voting regularly in elections and referendums
      • Participating in strikes and other forms of direct democracy
    • Referendums
      • A referendum is a popular vote where the people are asked to decide on an important political or constitutional issue directly
      • Key features
        • Government chooses when to hold them
        • Form of Direct Democracy
        • Always Yes/No answer
        • Results are not binding on parliament
      • Why are they held?
        • To make constitutional changes legitimate
        • To entrench constitutional change
        • To prevent splits in the governing party
      • Previous Referendums
        • 2011
          • Should AV be adopted for Westminster elections?
            • The coalition was divided on the issue and important constitutional change
            • A large ‘no’ vote on a low turnout
        • 1998
          • Northern Ireland
            • Should the Belfast agreement be approved to bring peace and power sharing to Northern Ireland?
              • Needed the approval of both sides of the community after years of conflict
              • A large ‘yes’ majority with a high turnout
        • 2016
          • Brexit
            • A close result of 51.9% voting to leave
            • Parliament was divided on the issue of remaining or leaving the EU
        • 1997
          • Scotland
            • Should Scotland have its own parliament with significant powers?
          • Wales
            • Should Wales have an elected assembly with modest powers?
              • An important constitutional change
              • A narrow ‘yes’ majority with a low turnout
          • Tony Blair was PM
        • 1975
          • Should the UK remain part of the European community?
            • National
            • The newly elected Labour government were split under this issue
            • A large 'Yes' majority
            • Harold Wilson PM at the time
      • Advantages
        • Legitimacy and consent
          • Confirm citizen consent to government and have the right to rule
        • Prevent unpopular decisions
          • People have the ability to stop the government making unpopular decisions, therefore keeping support.
          • E.g. – 2004 North-East Referendum
        • Participation
          • Encouraging direct democracy
        • Prevent government splits
          • Give population decision to prevent government splitting and causing a need for a new election
          • E.g. – 1975 referendum on EU membership    - 2016 Brexit referendum
        • Entrenchment
          • Referendums entrench changes and prevent future governments from reversing the decisions made
          • E.g. – 1998 Scottish Devolution referendum = YES.
        • Political education
          • Referendum campaigns area chance to educate the public on a political matter
          • E.g. - 1975 referendum on membership of European Community      - 2016 Brexit referendum
      • Disadvantages
        • Complexity
          • Many issues are too complex for the average person to make a judgement on. This leads decisions to be based on emotion or simplistic tabloid symbols.
        • Results can lack legitimacy
          • Where turnout is low, we cannot truly say that the people have given their consent to the decision. Therefore the result lacks legitimacy.
          • E.g. – 1998 London Mayor referendum = 34% turnout
        • Cost
          • Referendums are costly and expensive, especially in times of economic hardship
          • E.g - Av Referendum cost Westminster £75 million
        • Tyranny of the majority
          • Democracy implies that the views of all minorities are heard. But in a referendum only the majority are heard
          • E.g -Euthanasia
        • Undermines the role of representatves
          • When people make their own decisions through referendums, they may challenge the decision of their elected representatives and undermines the role and importance of parliament
        • Voter fatigue
          • The more referendums held, the lower turnout becomes. Voters become tired of voting.
        • Protest vote
          • The people may use a referendum to show their unhappiness with the government, rather than focusing on the issues
          • E.g. – did people vote no in the 2004 North East England referendum because John Prescott and the Labour government were unpopular
      • Why has the use of referendums increased since 1997?
        • Referendums entrench reform and so cannot be easily reversed by parties who have different philosophical ideas (e.g – the Labour and Conservative party)
        • It is believed that the electorate are better informed about politics than ever before and are better able to make informed judgements
        • Since 1997 there has been a greater interest in constitutional reform and is considered important that any such reform receives direct consent of the people
      • Should there be further use of referendums in the UK?
        • Against
          • Tabloid may reduce the rational arguments and lead to emotional appeals
          • It may make worse the already low level of respect people have for representative institutions
          • Too many votes = voter fatigue – may hinder legitimacy and turnout
        • For
          • People are becoming more accustomed to being consulted on key issues
          • Easier to inform people about issues because of the internet and social media
          • May get people more involved in the political processes
    • UK democracy
      • Criticisms
        • Political Institutions
          • The powers of the PM are not subject to law (only conventional)
          • Some ‘undemocratic’ institutions
            • E.g – the HOLs and Head of state
          • The European Convention on Human Rights can be overturned because Parliament is sovereign
        • Political participation
          • Party membership falling (less than 1% are members of a party)
          • Lack of identification with party policies
          • Turnout at elections is low and been falling in recent years
            • E.g – 2005-2010 Labour government was elected with only 35% of the popular vote
        • Political processes
          • Elections are considered to be unfair and undemocratic under FPTP
          • Smaller parties are under-represented
          • Parliament is relatively weak in its ability to call government to account
      • Strengths
        • Political processes
          • Free media and access to information
          • Elections are free and held regularly
          • Pressure groups access to various levels of government (access points)
        • Political Institutions
          • The rule of law applies
          • There are free political parties and pressure groups
          • Strong representation of individuals and constituencies by MPs
        • Political participation
          • All competent adults are permitted to participate in political processes
          • Direct forms of political action on single issues are increasing
            • E.g – 2010 NUS protests on uni fees
          • Freedom of association, thought and belief
      • Ways of strengthening
        • Use of electronic methods - Use electronic methods of voting and participation
          • Disadvantages
            • Not everyone has acess
            • Higher risk of tampered votes
          • Advantages
            • Cheaper
            • Prevents voter fatigue, therefore able to make decisions more regularly
        • An elected head of state - Replace monarch with an elected president
          • Advantages
            • Improves accountability
            • More legitimate
            • Can easily remove
          • Disadvantages
            • Lose tradition and tourism
            • Removed public, non-political figure
        • Increased use of referendums - Put more laws directly to the public
          • Advantages
            • Raises political awareness
            • Public will take part in democracy more
          • Disadvantages
            • Undermines representatives
            • Voter apathy
        • Changing voting systems for HOC - Choose a different voting system which gives a fairer outcome
          • Advantages
            • Smaller parties have a better chance
            • Fewer wasted votes
          • Disadvantages
            • Weaker governments – more coalitions = unstable
            • Long debates for an alternative voting system
        • Reduction of the voting age - Allow citizens to vote at 16 instead of 18
          • Advantages
            • Allows them to vote on the issues that affect them
            • May increase turnout in future
            • Other aspects of citizenship available at this age why not the right to vote?
          • Disadvantages
            • Voter Apathy
            • Undermines representatives
        • Greater political education in schools - Set aside more time in schools for students to study politics
          • Advantages
            • Increases political awareness
            • Turnout may increase
          • Disadvantages
            • Not enough time for extra subjects
            • Expensive to implement
    • Should voting be compulsory?
      • Yes
        • Election campaigns cheaper
        • Increases political awareness
        • Makes voting a responsibility not just a right
        • Increases turnout – increases legitimacy
        • Decreases corruption
        • Serves the interests of all classes
      • No
        • Other methods may be more effective and doesn’t deal with underline problem
        • Expensive system to implement and unpractical
        • Potentially compromises the right not to vote
        • Increases uneducated votes – tyranny of the majority
        • Would favour big, well-known parties

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