Lesson 3: Primary Features of Democratic Government

There are three necessary conditions for a democratic government: accountability, a functioning state, and the rule of law. This session will lead us to interrogate several issues relevant to these topics. How, for instance, do elections for heads of government in democracies provide for accountability? What is the most effective method for holding a head of government accountable? In this regard, this session will introduce both federal and centralized types of democratic government. The session will then explore the principal governmental institutions that provide for accountability in parliamentary systems with two houses of parliament; presidential systems that have the president as head of state; semi-presidential systems that have a president as well as a prime minister; and the advantages and disadvantages of each system. Because elections and different electoral systems play an important role in enforcing accountability, it is also necessary to review concepts such as the power of elections, public demonstrations, types of electoral systems, and voting systems. The session will discuss the function of political parties in democracies along with other important mechanisms. Ultimately, the session will respond to this question: what is required to maintain the health of a democracy and what role do citizens play in that regard?

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