Democratic Legitimacy In Democracy

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Define democratic legitimacy and outline one way it is achieved. Democratic legitimacy is the principle that the use of power by those who govern is accepted by the people who are governed. To achieve democratic legitimacy, the power exercised by the government must be consented to by the people and must comply with the political system within which the government operates. One way democratic legitimacy is achieved is thought he process of elections – these include general elections, local elections, mayoral elections or international elections (like voting for MEPs). Democratic legitimacy is achieved through elections since they provide away for the people to confer the use of power by the government, and abide by the political framework…show more content…
Firstly, referendums are held when there is the proposition of constitutional change, meaning change that will alter the relationships between different parts of the state, or between the state and its citizens. In these circumstances, referendums are held to grant these changes democratic legitimacy. An example of this was the 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution, which led to the establishment of a Scottish parliament (with 74% of those who voted saying ‘yes’). Another circumstance in which referendums are held is when a dispute between factions within a political party in power must be resolved. For example, the referendum held under Labour PM Harold Wilson in 1975 on European Communities membership was partly held due to the split within the Labour party and the cabinet over this issue. Many key Labour politicians were against continued membership of the EU, including Tony Benn and Michael Foot. Finally, a referendum was used by the current government to settle the coalition agreement between Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties – in 2011 a referendum was held on whether to institute Alternative Voting in future general elections, to which the voters responded ‘no’ overall. This referendum served the political purpose to give the Liberal Democrats a chance to fulfill a part of their manifesto, while under the Conservative’s…show more content…
Firstly, consulting the electorate on specific policy matters relies on people making well-informed decisions about complex and often specialist matters. One could argue that the general public simply do not understand the intricacies of politics and government enough to make the right choices about running the nation – and therefore that the experts who we elect and rely on as part of our current democracy should continue to represent the electorate in making these decisions. The 2011 referendum on AV was widely criticized for the lack of information available to and certainly used by voters, and many argue that had people better understood the issue, they would have voted differently. Another argument about the unreliability of referendums concerns campaigning. As seen with AV in 2011, the ‘No’ campaign was better funded and better supported which majorly affected the referendum’s outcome – one can argue that wider use of referendums will put even more political decisions in the hands of the rich and influential, detracting from democracy. Referendums are also extremely expensive, as well as being difficult to organize. Many would argue that a wider use of referendums in the UK is a waste of money during a period when the National Debt exceeds £1.2 trillion. Also, governments will not choose to hold a referendum unless confident the result is in their

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