The Effects of a Crisis: Stronger Citizens? Stronger Democracy? Stronger Constitution?

Now that the political turmoil has settled and the focus can turn to recovering what was diminished during the last 50 days of political pandemonium, I thought it would be good to reflect back on some of the positive things that happened as a results of the constitutional crisis.

The political leaders have been shaken up – having the rug pulled out from under your feet can do that to you. Pro-democratic political parties, civil society groups and individuals fought hard to restore the democracy of the country, by using the protection given by the constitution. Because of that the UNP has been given a do-over. As Hon. Sajith Premadasa said in a statement made right after Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe was reinstated: this would be a different and revolutionary government.

Of course, now the people are not quick to believe everything that politicians say, and there is a renewed urgency in holding political leaders and the government accountable. People are watching the actions of the government more carefully than they did before, and will think twice before casting their vote in the next election. So, with this second chance also comes greater responsibility to govern virtuously.

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When Democracy and Constitutionalism Clash…

Pure democracy is a system of government suitable only for angels – ordinary mortals cannot handle it – Rousseau

Democracy – a word that has been thrown around a lot in the past month in Sri Lanka. Studying the current political discourse in the country, democracy has been propagated in two different ways. To one camp it is the protection of the constitution and the rule of law. To the other camp, democracy is simply and solely ‘the voice of the people’ – thus the call for elections above everything else. 

In fact, the greek word demokratia literally translates to ‘rule or power of the people’. And as widely cited in academic discourse democracy is defined as ‘popular political participation’. 

So, what does it mean for the people to rule? It means that everyone should govern; that the will of the people should be consulted in crucial decision making; in deciding general laws and matters of general policy[1]. One way to determine the will of the people is through their elected representatives[2]. In our political context the people have already decided who would represent them for this political term, therefore ousting those who have already been elected, and demanding another election prematurely is quite simply going against the will of the people, i.e. democracy. 

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