Power Sharing

Democracy

The word democracy comes from the Greek word “demos”, people or citizen of a state or country, and “kratos” means power; so, democracy can be “power of the people”.

Democracy means

  • rule by the people
  • Government of the People
  • Government of the Majority.

People of the state or country choose their government through the election (voting).


Three Bodies of Government

Legislature – The power of legislature in India are exercised by the parliament.

  • Rajya Sabha or, Council of States (Upper House)
    • members appointed by the president and elected by the state and territorial legislatures.
    • Permanent House (Members are elected for six-year terms)
  • Lok Sabha or, House of the People (Lower House)
    • Temporary House (dissolve when the party in power loses the support)

All powers are vested by the constitution in the prime minister, parliament, and the supreme court.


Executive – Legislates make laws and the executive body executes them.  

  • Vice President
  • Prime Minister
  • Cabinet Ministers
  • Other agencies

Judiciary

The Supreme Court is the top court and the last appellate court in India, and the Chief Justice of India is its top authority.

High Courts are the top judicial bodies in the states controlled and managed by the Chief Justices of States.

District Courts or, subordinate courts, are controlled and managed by the District & Sessions Judges.


Power Sharing  

An intelligent sharing of power among a legislature, executive and judiciary is very important to the design of a democracy.

Effects of power sharing in democratic states or country take a example of Belgium and Sri Lanka.

In this comparison we learn how democracies handle demands for power-sharing.

BelgiumSri Lanka
Belgium is a small country in Europe, smaller in area than the state of Haryana. It has borders with France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg. (See map below)Sri Lanka is an island nation, just a few kilometers off the southern coast of Tamil Nadu. (See map below)
It has a population of a little over one crore, about half the population of Haryana. (See table note 1)It has about two crore people, about the same as in Haryana. (See table note 1)
59 percent live in the Flemish region and speak the Dutch language. Another 40 percent of people live in the Wallonia region and speak French. Remaining one percent of the Belgians speak German. (Data chart)Sinhala speaker’s 74 percent and the Tamil speaker 18 percent. Christians – 7% Remaining 1%Among Tamils there are two sub-groups. Native Tamil (Sri Lankan Tamil) 13%India Tamil – Remaining (5%)
In the capital city Brussels, 80 percent of people speak French while 20 percent are Dutch-speaking.Most of the Sinhala-speaking people are Buddhists.Most of the Tamils are Hindus or Muslims.
The minority French-speaking community was relatively rich and powerful. This was resented (opposed) by the Dutch-speaking community who got the benefit of economic development and education much later.This led to tensions between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities during the 1950s and 1960s. 
Brussels presented a special problem: the Dutch-speaking people constituted a majority in the country, but a minority in the capital.In Sri Lanka, the Sinhala community enjoyed an even bigger majority and could impose its will on the entire country.

Note: 1. According to size, Haryana is the 21st state in India. 


Data 1 Belgium


Data 2 – Sri Lanka


Majoritarian in Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka emerged as an independent country in 1948.
  • The leaders of the Sinhala community secure dominance over the government by their majority.
  • As a result, the democratically elected government adopted a series of MAJORITARIAN measures to establish Sinhala supremacy.

Effects of Majoritarian Government (Sinhala)

  • In 1956, an Act was passed to recognize Sinhala as the only official language, thus disregarding Tamil.
  • The governments followed preferential policies that favored Sinhala applicants for university positions and government jobs.
  • A new constitution stipulated that the state shall protect and foster Buddhism.
  • All these government measures, coming one after the other, gradually increased the feeling of alienation among the Sri Lankan Tamils.
  • Buddhist Sinhala leaders were sensitive to their language and culture.
  • Srilankan Minorities felt that the constitution and government policies denied them equal political rights, discriminated against them in getting jobs and other opportunities, and ignored their interests.
  • As a result, the relations between the Sinhala and Tamil communities strained over time.

Major steps were taken by the Minorities (Tamil)

  • The Sri Lankan Tamils launched parties and struggled for the recognition of Tamil as an official language, for regional autonomy, and for equality of opportunity in securing education and jobs.
  • But their demand for more autonomy in provinces populated by the Tamils was repeatedly denied.
  • By the 1980s several political organizations were formed demanding an independent Tamil Eelam (state) in northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka.

Conflictions Between Sinhala and Tamil 

  • The distrust between the two communities turned into widespread conflict. It soon turned into a CIVIL WAR.
  • As a result, thousands of people from both communities have been killed.
  • Many families were forced to leave the country as refugees and many more lost their livelihoods.
  • You have read (Chapter 1 of the Economics textbook, Class X) about Sri Lanka’s excellent record of economic development, education and health.
  • But the civil war has caused a terrible setback to the social, cultural, and economic life of the country.
  • It ended in 2009.

Accommodation In Belgium

  • The Belgian leaders took a different path.
  • Between 1970 and 1993, they amended their constitution four times so as to work out an arrangement that would enable everyone to live together within the same country.
  • The arrangement they worked out is different from any other country and is very innovative.

Belgian model of Government

  1. Constitution prescribes that the number of Dutch and French-speaking ministers shall be equal in the central government. Some special laws require the support of a majority of members from each linguistic group. Thus, no single community can make decisions unilaterally.
  2. Many powers of the central government have been given to state governments of the two regions of the country. The state governments are not subordinate to the Central Government.
  3. Brussels has a separate government in which both the communities have equal representation. The French-speaking people accepted equal representation in Brussels because the Dutch-speaking community has accepted equal representation in the Central Government.
  4. Apart from the Central and the State governments, there is a third kind of government. This ‘community government’ is elected by people belonging to one language community – Dutch, French, and German-speaking – no matter where they live. This government has the power regarding cultural, educational and language-related issues.

You might find the Belgian model very complicated, but these arrangements have worked well so far. They helped to avoid civic strife between the two major communities and a possible division of the country on linguistic lines.


Why Power Sharing is needed?

  • Power-sharing is good because it helps to reduce the possibility of conflict between social groups.
  • Social conflict often leads to violence and political instability, power-sharing is a good way to ensure the stability of political order.
  • Imposing the will of the majority community over others may look like an attractive option in the short run, but in the long run, it undermines the unity of the nation.
  • Tyranny (cruel and oppressive government or rule of the majority) is not just oppressive for the minority; it often brings ruin to the majority as well.
  • Power-sharing is the very spirit of democracy. A democratic rule involves sharing power with those affected by its exercise, and who have to live with its effects.
  • People have a right to be consulted on how they are to be governed. A legitimate government is one where citizens, through participation, acquire a stake in the system.

Forms of Power Sharing

  • Power is shared among different organs of government, such as the legislature, executive, and judiciary.
  • Power can be shared among governments at different levels – a general government for the entire country and governments at the provincial or regional level. Such a general government for the entire country is usually called the federal government.
  • Power may also be shared among different social groups such as the religious and linguistic groups. ‘Community government’ in Belgium is a good example of this arrangement.
  • Power-sharing arrangements can also be seen in the way political parties, pressure groups, and movements control or influence those in power. In a democracy, the citizens must have the freedom to choose among various contenders for power. In contemporary democracies, this takes the form of competition among different parties. Such competition ensures that power does not remain in one hand.

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