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Principles and Mediating Values

A conception of democracy that is anchored in clear democratic principles and mediating values helps provide a framework for high-quality democracy.

Assessing the quality of a country’s democracy requires a clear conception of both democracy and the country’s core principles. It is equally important to understand how these principles are embodied in institutional, political and social practices. The State of Democracy methodology identifies popular control over decisions and decision-makers and equality among citizens, including between men and women, in the exercise of that control. The more these principles of popular control and political equality are present in a country, the higher the level of public decision-making. Assessing their presence, however, can be particularly complex, especially in some contexts. Mediating values should also be examined in order to determine the extent to which these principles shape and inform the institutions and procedures of representative government. These mediating values give effect to the democratic principles in countries’ institutional arrangements and practices.

Popular Control / Political Equality


Without citizen participation, and the rights, the freedoms and the means to participate, the principle of popular control over government cannot begin to be realized.


The starting point of participation is to authorize public representatives or officials through free and fair electoral choice, and in a manner which produces a legislature that is representative of the different tendencies of public opinion.


If different groups of citizens are treated on an equal footing, according to their numbers, then the main public institutions will be socially representative of the citizen body as a whole


The accountability of all officials, both to the public directly and through the mediating institutions of parliament, the courts, the ombudsman and other watchdog agencies, is crucial if officials are to act as agents or servants of the people rather than as their masters.


Without openness or transparency in government, no effective accountability is possible.


Responsiveness to public needs, through a variety of institutions through which those needs can be articulated, is a key indication of the level of controlling influence which people have over government.


While equality runs as a principle through all the mediating values, it finds particular expression in the solidarity which citizens of democracies show to those who differ from themselves at home, and towards popular struggles for democracy abroad.

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