December 25, 2016

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Become active participants in the reform process

In democratic states, citizens have a say in the affairs of the state. Among the rights, the political rights are the foundation of democracy. A literature review in regard to the political rights would reveal nine common political rights: the right to vote; the right to stand for election; the right to hold public office; the right to petition; the right to criticize the government; the right to residence; the right to protection while staying abroad; the right to public meeting; and the right to resist.
The right to vote is the primary right whereby the citizen freely chooses his representatives in a democracy whereas the right to stand for election is a corollary of the right to vote. There are generally certain minimum qualifications of age or education to be able to contest the elections for membership of the legislature. Concerning the right to hold public office, every citizen must be accorded equal chance to hold office inclusive of the highest public office in the state providing that he fulfills the requisite qualifications.
Regarding the right to petition, citizens in a democratic state are entitled to address either individually or collectively the appropriate governmental authorities, petitions incorporating their demands and grievances. These enable the authorities to keep themselves in touch with public opinion. As democracy is very often described as a government by discussion and criticism, the citizens are entitled to criticize the government. This right enables the citizens to point out the flaws in government’s policies and acts and draws its attention to public grievances. Matter-of-factly, constructive public criticism makes a government responsive and responsible. In addition, all citizens are free to reside in any part of a country. And when citizens are staying abroad, they shall have the right to seek the protection of their home state. It is also worth noting in this juncture that free discussion and constructive criticism of government’s policies are allowed in a democracy.
On top of all, the citizens have the right to resist but this right cannot be described as a legal right. In fact, it is only a moral right because there can arise occasions when the citizens have the moral duty to resist and disobey the commands of the state. However, this right should be exercised sparingly and as a last resort when other peaceful, constitutional methods have failed to correct an erring government. Democracy provides a congenial atmosphere for the effective enjoyment of the political rights, which enable citizens to become active participants in the political process and contribute to the overall stability of the political system.

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