Politics Notes

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Features of Direct Democracy

  • 'Rule by people'.

Based on 2 core princples:

  • Political participation: key political decisions made by the people. This is reflected in the diea of government by the people.
  • Political equality: each cititzen has a free and equal opportunity to influence political decisions. This is reflected in the idea of equal citizenship.

Key features:

  • In direct democracy the people make political decisions themselves. The effectiveness of direct democracy is based on the extent of popular participation in government.
  • Popular participation is direct in that the people 'make' policy devisions - they don't merely choose who will rule on their behalf.
  • Popular participation is unmediated in that the people 'are' the government - there is no seperate class of professional politicans.
  • Popular participation is continous in that people engage in politics on a regular and ongoing basis - all decisions are made by the people.
  • Referendums are a feature of direct democracy as they allow the peope to express their opinion.
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Features of Representative Democracy.

  • Limited and indirect form of democracy.
  • Operates through ability of representatives to speak for or act on behalf of the people.
  • At heart of representative democracy is the process through which representatives are chosen and can be removed.
  • This is usually done through regualr and popular elections.

Key features:

  • Popular participation is indirect - public don't exercise power themselves; choose who will rule on their behlaf.
  • Popular participation is mediated - the people are linked to government through representative institutions.
  • Popular participation in government is limited - it's infrequent and brief, being restricted to the act of voting every few year.
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Referendum examples.

UK Membership of the EEC (1975)

  • Why held? To see whether the UK will remain within the EEC (now EU), as they'd joined a year before without referendum.
  • Outcome: Yes win (67.2%) with 64% total electoral turnout. (32.8% no vote).
  • England: 68.7% voted yes, 31.3% voted no.
  • Wales: 64.8% voted yes, 35.2% voted no.
  • Scotland: 58.4% voted yes, 41.6% voted no.
  • Northern Ireland: 52.1% voted yes, 47.9% voted no.
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Participation Crisis.

  • Participation crisis means that there's a difficult situation/major problem which questions the health of the UK democratic system due to a lack of political engagement and voter apathy. People aren't identifying with major parties and so are voting meaning we're not getting a representative government and Parliament.
  • Signs of this are falling turnout for general elections and falling party membership.
    Statistics of this are:
    Electoral turnout: 
  •  Average general election turnout in UK usually remains above 75% between 1945 and 1992.
  • Post war high of 84% in 1950.
  • 1997 was 71%, Blair government voted in.
  • 2001 only 59% - lowest figure since 1918.
  • 2010 was 65% - rose slightly, but still 10% lower than the average in 1945-92.
    Membership stats:
  • Labour: was at one more than 1 million in mid 1950s, fell to 166,000 in 2009.
  • Conservatives: 2.8 mill i 1950s to 250,000 in 2009.
  • In 2007 fewer than 1% of the UK belonged to a political party, fallen from 7% 50 years previous. 
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Argument against participation crisis.

  • Some people would say there isn't a participation crisis, rather a shift from main parties to smaller parties and pressure groups.
  • UKIP membership rose to 39,000 members
  • Green's rose to 20,000 members.
  • SNP rose to 75,000 members.
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