Understanding Constitutions & Political Parties , Interests and Pressure Groups & Elections and Electoral Systems
According to Erin McKean (2051) a constitution is a written or non written document that outlines how a government or country is governed. It is the basis upon which, all the operations of the government or state are hinged upon. It outlines what the state officers are supposed to do in the service of the people. Everyone is bound by these laws. It’s supreme to all the laws of the land; it is applicable to organizations as well as countries and states. The basis on which a multi-national company operates on is said to be its constitution. Both sovereign and federal states have their own constitutions that outline how the laws of the land should be formed, the powers and limitations of each state organ that should never be violated by anyone holding these offices (Erin McKean 2051)
A constitution can be either rigid or flexible. Rigid constitutions are not subject to any changes or manipulations by anybody. These constitutions are also called entrenched constitutions. They have clear-cut regulations as regards changing any letter of this document. Some of them even require a referendum to amend any clause. They are made in such a way that they are not to changed regardless of the changing times of the day. These are meant to guard against people who may want to serve their self-interest in office by amending the clauses that seem to gag their power. A good example of such a constitution is the one of the US. This has undergone a few changes since its inception about two centuries ago. It has gone through only 36 amendments since its promulgation. On the other hand, a flexible constitution is one that falls in tune with the changing times. Some amendments are done routinely to ensure that it meets the modern day demands. An example of this is the UK constitution that can be amended by a simple majority in parliament. This means that there are no specific regulations as regards editing the constitution. Constitutionalism on the hand is the principle that binds/ties all people working in government or state offices to ensure that they live and work by the spirit and the letter of the supreme law of the land. It limits their actions from whims of free will, to one that they have to perform everything in consonance with the constitution. The underlying tenets of the constitutions include, those that were against federalism were of the view that the governing structure should be decentralized into small units. They were also of the view that the constitution be made in a way that .The people were to work for the betterment of the public as opposed to self-gratification. Similarly, those against federalism were of the view that religion should be the guiding principle in the running of the country and this should never be left to a matter of personal choice. Another tenet of most constitution is their supremacy .The constitution is assumed to above all statutory laws of the land and any law that is not I n consonance with the supreme law is considered null and void (Beau B 724).
Freedoms Canadians enjoy protections that are missing in the Canadian Constitution and how they affect individuals and the additional rights that should be incorporated in the constitution the make it ideal.
According to the Canadian charter on human rights, only citizens of Canada have the exclusive right to enjoy all the rights and privileges. As regards article 24 of the charter, only courts have the express power to ensure no one is denied their rights. The rights as enshrined in the charter include; the basic liberties and freedoms like the freedom to choose ones religion, freedom of expressing ones mind and freedom of association, among others. Another class of rights includes their right and privilege to engage in the political processes in the country. These people are also endowed with the freedom to move in out of their country at will. They can live and work anywhere in the country. Under this charter, the individuals have an array of rights as regards the course of justice. They are also to be equally treated without any bias of any nature. Another unique provision in this charter is the one on language use where individuals are free to use any of the state languages in the course of their communication. As regards the marginalized and small communities, they are entitled to all the basic rights just like the other citizens, including the freedom to have their lessons in their own language. (Hogg P W 689).
As much as these provisions are explicitly written, most of them come with lot of limitations. These limitations are used by the governments, to gag the freedoms that are bestowed on the people. The government can cite the provisions of the 1st chapter of the charter to gag these freedom .This is especially so in case of freedom of expression where an individual may be convicted for hate speech as much as they have the right to expression. These limitations put the people at the mercy of state organs and thus as much as they have these rights they cannot enjoy them (Hogg P W 689).for the rights to be fully realized there should be limits as to how far the government gagging the rights can go. This will ensure that the citizens enjoy their rights without fear of reappraisal. (Hogg P W 689).the other rights that should be added to these charter may include liberal access to health and basic education. (Dyck 446)
According to Gunther R and Diamond L (167), a political party is defined as a political arrangement meant to influence the actions of the government .This is done by choosing their own people and sending them to political offices to represent their rights. A party must have a written constitution or manifesto. There are different parties depending on the type of the political system. For example countries that entrench the concept of having every group represented in government, they may have as much parties in government as there is representation. This is especially so in European and Australian countries. Most of these political parties are determined by the time of system they use in voting. There are also countries where there voting is not aligned along party lines. Persons vying for public offices are supposed t o use their credentials in marketing themselves for these offices. Leading examples of this type of voting system are the US congress and the parliament of Nebraska. Other notable examples are, in Canada in, the northern part. From these nonpartisan systems, there may be different cliques that may eventually split to form political parties (Gunther R and Diamond L 167).
Political Parties have a greater influence on the democracy that exists in a country. This is especially so because of the different party affiliations. For those countries with single party systems, all powers are in one party. The views of the minority are suppressed, as they are required to sing to the tune of dominant party. This type is a synonym of dictatorial leadership as evidenced in china and Nazi German. For a two party system where both parties have almost similar strength, it is almost impossible for any single party to form, a government .This requires that the parties form different wings of the government. This is especially true to countries like the US where both the republican and democratic wings have the same strength. This poses a great challenge especially in the implementation of policies, as there will be dissenting views. The UK also has this type of system with the leadership rotating between the two main political parties i.e. the labor and conservative parties. (Gunther R and Diamond L 167)
Another form of party leadership is the multi party system. In this scenario, like in Canada, there usually exist large dominant parties. Within the same system there are also small parties that may have greater influence on the politics of the country .most of these small parties in an attempt to asset their strength seek for coalitions with the larger parties as the form governments. In countries such Canada, where this system exists it is rare to find a government of one party as most of them are always a coalition of parties. Another effect of political parties on the democracy is exhibited in the system where voting is balanced. Here, the voters in the process of voting are given the leeway to put both the positive and negative vote. This aimed to curb the rise in election cheating and malpractices. In this form, the voter makes both votes so that the chances of one rigging the vote is minimized as the positive votes are tallied against the negative votes for one to be declared a winner. (Gunther R and Diamond L 167)
The differences in the functions of political parties and pressure groups in Canada
The main function of political parties is to foster the party’s interests in government and ensure that they are above the others in terms of numbers. This great numbers help them in keeping check of the government operations. In countries with a liberal idealism, the parties are aimed at supporting the liberation of their countries. The conservative parties aim at maintaining the status quo in the country. as opposed to the political parties pressure groups always fight specifically for the needs of their group as opposed to that of the general public. They will raise money and fund the candidates whom they feel, will articulate their issues well in government. Each of the pressure groups, champions its own recognition. Another difference is in the amounts they can raise in supporting an individual aspiring to vie for apposition in the federal government. As opposed to the political parties, pressure groups have been limited in this area. Currently, the number of pressure groups has really grown and is threatening the other people in terms of the amounts they are able to pool. (Davis L and Figgins B 195-202).
How effective are they in Canada’s parliamentary system of government?
This is system of government where the executive and parliament have intermingled functions. The leaders of the government are not directly elected by the people but by the majority party in parliament. This poses a great challenge to democracy as ,it will be hard to remove a leader who has majority leadership in parliament. As much as this system is praised for its flexibility in terms of holding elections, it is faced with the challenge of being abused by influential figures. Another weakness with this system is that, there might be some people who are fit to lead. Nevertheless, because they did not make to parliament, they cannot get the premiership position. (Bates J N “policy and delegated power”)
Importance of voting and voter turnout
Voter turnout is a measure of the proportion of people who show up to participate in an election. In any election, for it to be deemed a success, the number of people who turn up should be high. As regards the issue the importance of single voter in determining an outcome, topic is subjective. Some people argue that, for a large democracy like the US, a single vote is not likely to have a big difference especially as they use a college that chooses the persons to higher office. Different countries receive different percentages in terms of voter turnout. For example during the last elections in the US, there was more than two-thirds voter turnout. in countries the higher the amount of voters turning up the better the rating of the sitting government. An electoral system is defined as the way in which people have the opportunity to choose from the options availed to them during an election. The system contains well structured and laid down procedures that relate to voting .They include all the regulations regarding due process and how the votes are to be tallied. There are different methods of voting that range from the acclamation to the one where secret ballots are used. The voting systems are different depending on the type government system practiced (G. Hägele and F. Pukelsheim 003).
The role of an electoral system in determining the outcome of an election
First, the members to the Electoral College are collected based on the number of representatives in the state. This ensures equity. Secondly, to ensure that the persons to the office of elector must be a person of integrity and they should not be serving in any other political office. Thirdly, the date of the election is set well in advance to wade away the chances of people messing with the election process. Also of interest is that the counting of the votes is done in such a way that it’s on a specific date and venue that is known well in advance (Hägele G and Pukelsheim F 003).
From the discussions above, for an electoral process to be successful, the electoral system must be efficient. Even large political systems are not spared by the voting problems. In Canada where they practice the parliamentary system, they need to make some changes for their system to work better. To cut on the weakness where the dates of the election are not known, they should set an election date well in advance. This will help curb the individuals that would want to stick in office.
Dyck Mandel Michael. The Charter of Rights and the Legalization on of Politics in Canada page 446, Toronto. 1994 .Print
Hogg, Peter W. Constitutional Law of Canada. Scarborough, Ontario. Thomson Canada Limited. Pg .689. 2003.Print
Gunther, Richard, and Diamond Larry. Species of Political Parties: A New Typology,” Party Politics, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 167–199.2003.Print
William D L and Figgins B. Do Economists Believe American Democracy Is Working? Pg 195 202. 2009. Print
Bates J N (1986), Parliament, Policy and Delegated Power, Statute Law Review. Oxford: Oxford University Press.1996.Print