The rights of a government

This time you’re in for something different. It’s not a post about Athens, films or music. It is a short essay writen for a class I attend. I thought it deserved a place in my little corner on the internet.

So the conversation is going to turn theoretical. Let’s suggest that someone asks you: Can a government in a liberal constitutional democracy follow a policy different than the one it was elected for and/or a policy that the majority of the people don’t agree with? What would you say if you had to support both opposing views?

Here’s my answer to the burning question.

The two opposing we’re going to use arguments derive from the two basic principles that relate to the functioning of the institutions at a state that is formed under the rule of law.

Obtaining the majority of the votes in a national election means that the people deny from the newly-formed government the right to follow a different policy than the one it was elected for. This happens because the parliamentary sovereignty includes the rule of majority which states that crucial decisions require verification by the majority of the sovereign people. The positive vote that they give to the prevailing party theoretically regards their policy statements and their vision for the country. Following a different or an opposing policy would result to a direct infringement of the rule of majority and an indirect one of the sovereignty of the people. Therefore agreeing to the existence of such a right would give a severe blow to the parliamentary sovereignty as one of the foundations of a constitutional democracy.

According to the opposite view the government has the right to implement a strategy different than the one it was voted for despite it being opposed to the will of its voters. An absolute implementation of the rule of the majority ignores the principle of individual rights. This principle calls for the limitation of the power of the majority, when basic individual rights are concerned. It’s essential for the government to be able to opt out of following its past proclamations when it is evident that their realization would violate the rights of the minority (that didn’t support them at the elections). As a result, the principle of individual rights serves as a safety net for the rights of the minority during times of crucial political decisions.

I was called to write this with my mind on the current state of the political affairs in Greece. I’d love it if you told me whether or not one of these arguments justify important political decisions and if so, which ones? Do comment your thoughts because I’m more than interested in reading them. 

See you next time,

Kleanthi 

Disclaimer: This picture wasn’t taken by me.
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