Short Notes: Democracy in the contemporary world

Democracy is the most desired form of government as it makes the government liable to the citizens for most of their actions.

The transition from non democratic to democratic country has not been very smooth and clear for most of the nations.

Salvador Allende : Former president of Chile. His government was overthown by military coup in 1973.

He was also a founder of Socialist party of Chile. He also took several policy decisions to help the poor which includes,

  • Reformed the educational system.
  • Provided free milk for school children.
  • Redistributed land to the landless farmers.
  • Opposed foreign companies which are taking away natural resources like copper from the country. So that the landlords, other political parties, the rich and the Church opposed his policies.

Fall of Allende and rise of Pinochet

  • On 11 September 1973, the military headed by Pinochet took over the Seaport and the Defense Minister was arrested by the military when he arrived at his office.
  • The military commanders asked the President to resign. Allende refused to resign or leave the country.
  • Then the military surrounded the President’s house and started bombing it. President Allende died in the military attack.
  • A government elected by people was overthrown by the military through conspiracy and violence.
  • General Augusto Pinochet an Army general became the president and ruled it for the next 17 years.

Difference in their rules



He has taken many policy decisions to help the poor and the workers Pinochet’s government tortured and killed several thousand people
Allende came to power through election. Pinochet came to power through conspiracy and coup.
He did not permit foreign companies to take away the resources from Chile He allowed USA to take away the resources because it helped him in military coup.

End of Pinochet’s rule : because of the referendum

  • Pinochet’s military dictatorship came to an end after he decided to hold a referendum in 1988. He felt confident that in this referendum, the people would say ‘yes’ to his continuing in power. But the people said ‘NO’.
  • This led to Pinochet losing first his political and then his military powers.
  • Then Chile had four presidential elections in which different political parties have participated. Slowly, the army’s role in the country has been eliminated.
  • The elected governments that came to power ordered inquiries into Pinochet’s rule. These inquiries showed that his government was not only very brutal, but also very corrupt.
  • General Bachelet’s daughter who was imprisoned and tortured along with her mother that girl, Michelle Bachelet was the elected President of Chile in January 2006.

Demands of striking workers of Poland

  • Taking back a crane operator, a woman worker, who was unjustly dismissed.
  • Right to form independent trade unions.
  • Release of political prisoners.
  • End to censorship on press.
  • Freedom to organize, protest and express opinions.

Fall of Jaruzelski`s communist rule in Poland

  • The workers led by Lech Walesa signed a 21-point agreement with the government that ended their strike. The government agreed to recognize the workers’ right to form independent trade unions and their right to strike.
  • A new trade union called Solidarity was formed. Within a year, Solidarity swept across Poland and had one crore members.
  • Solidarity criticized widespread corruption and mismanagement of Jaruzelski`s government. General Jaruzelski, imposed martial law and thousands of Solidarity members were put in prison.
  • Another wave of strikes, again organised by Solidarity, began in 1988. This time they demanded free election. In April 1989 elections, Solidarity contested all the 100 seats of the Senate and won 99 of them and Walesa became the elected President of Poland. And hence, democracy was restored.

Two Features of Democracy

  1. Only leaders elected by people should rule the country.
  2. People have the freedom to express views, freedom to organise and freedom to protest.

Changing Map of Democracy

  • Democracy spread throughout the world during the 20th century.
  • Democracy did not spread evenly in all parts of the world, but in different regions and in different phases.
  • While a majority of the countries are democratic, there are still large parts of Africa and Asia that are not democratic.

A major restructuring of the political systems of the world happened during the twentieth century. Countries that had established democracy during 1900s were the United States and Canada in North America, and the United Kingdom, France, Norway and Greece in Europe. By the 1950s, some countries in Asia gained independence and subsequently formed democratic governments of their own like India, Japan and the Philippines.

Another major country which became a democracy around 1950s is Australia. By the year 2000, African countries started their transition towards democracy. Major countries that are still non-democratic are North Korea, Myanmar and China in Asia, Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, Peru in South America, Morocco, Libya, Somalia and Sudan in Africa, and Belarus in Europe.

Global Democracy and International Organisations

  • There are many institutions in the world that perform the functions of a world government to some extent. These organizations can influence the government to take action that will promote peace in that region. The primary organization that plays this role is the United Nations.
  • The United Nations, which is head-quartered in New York, was formed after the Second World War in 1945 to maintain peace and security around the world. The United Nations is a global association of nations of the world that co-operate with each other to maintain international law, security, economic development and social equity.
  • The United Nations makes laws and rules to govern the seas that do not fall within the boundaries of any single country.  It takes steps to control environmental degradation by making conventions that are binding on member nations.
  • The UN Security Council, a division of the United Nations, is responsible for maintaining peace between countries. The United Nations however cannot interfere in the internal political problems of a country.
  • Another organization that is global in nature is the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.While the IMF can bail out countries from their international debts, the World Bank is responsible for giving loans for development projects around the world. The UN has 192 member countries, and each country gets one vote in the UN General Assembly. The General Assembly cannot make any decisions about what action should be taken in case of a conflict between two countries.The US, Russia, the UK, France and China are the five permanent members of the Security Council. Ten more other members are elected by the General Assembly every two years.The real power lies only with the five permanent members. These permanent members, particularly the United States, contribute most of the money that is needed to maintain the UN. Only a permanent member has the power to veto, which means to repeal an action.

    The IMF has 185 member nations and lends money to any country that needs it. Nearly 54% of the voting power rests in the hands of only 10 countries – the US, Japan, the UK, Germany, France, China, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

    The World Bank has an unequal voting framework. The president of the World Bank is always a US citizen and is nominated by the Treasury Secretary of the US Government. Most global institutions will fail the simple test of democracy. In 2003, the United States attacked Iraq, deposed Saddam Hussein and installed an interim government in the name of democracy.

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