The Opposition and the Enhancement of Democracy

The Opposition and the Enhancement of Democracy

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By: Loubna FLAH

MA in Linguistics/ Discourse Analysis



The enactment democracy is centered on the empowerment of citizens and the tolerance of differences within pluralistic societies. Indeed, the term democracy denotes a mode of governance that gives primacy to the voice of people in matter of political choices. Democracy stipulates the enforcement of a number of principles that allow pluralism and prevent monopoly of power. The transfer of power from one political force to another through the electoral process guarantees the manifestation of different political sensibilities. Likewise, the separation between the different branches of power namely the executive, the legislative and the judiciary constitutes a safety valve against the hegemony of a privileged group.

The hegemony of a particular political view as an outcome of the democratic process may eclipse the interests of a sizable portion of the population whose voice could not win larger votes. Such form of democratic dominance is labeled in political theory as the tyranny of the majority. The expression of the opposition views in matters of public governance is bound to a large extent to the nature of opposition parties, the degree of internal democracy, the distribution of power, the frequency of parliamentary elections and the relation between parties in the opposition and those in the government.

Political parties play a tremendous role in the enhancement of democratic principles. Indeed, the process of politics is primarily ushered by political parties since they are the most accessible channels towards decision making positions. The competition among ideologically opposed parties benefits largely to democracy. Conversely, political systems organized around the participation of ideologically identical parties provide an opening for political opportunism motivated by personal interests rather than the general interest of the people.

In this context, the engagement in politics becomes devoid from political ethics and the positions undertaken by these parties part ways with the major orientations of the public opinion. In the case of political opportunism, the demands of the populace are often overlooked by the ruling elites whose main objective is to amass new privileges and to set up mechanisms by which they can preserve existing ones often at the expense of the common good.

The lack of internal democracy within political parties is another factor that erodes considerably the enforcement of democratic principles. Nepotism in the management of political parties undermines their capacity to operate a significant change aligned with democracy. As a matter of fact, the transfer of power from one generation to another within some political parties is slow and the access to decision making positions within parties remains the appanage of senior members. Not to mention that the hasty recruitment of new members and the absence of a targeted training programs engender a low level of commitment among the members and paves the path for diverse forms of opportunism.

The role of the opposition parties is often downplayed in deficient democracies. The presence of parties that failed to win large numbers of votes is considered as a mere side effect of the electoral process. Notwithstanding, we need to lay emphasis on the preponderant role of opposition parties in the enactment of democracy.

The Opposition: New perspectives for a sound democracy

The notion of opposition itself is central to democracy. The acceptance of pluralism, a founding pillar of democracy, is manifested in many principles such as freedom of expression. Parliamentary opposition constitutes the most conventional form of opposition within the state. Through parliamentary debates, the opposition can monitor the performance of the government mainly through parliamentary questions.

The opposition serves also as an eye opener for the public opinion as its moves are likely to expose the missteps of the government and to influence the process of vote for the forthcoming elections. Opposition can also wield pressure on the government through its affiliated media outlets that allow them to make their criticism public and in many occasions to expose the government’s missteps[1].

The main task of the opposition is to place the work of the government under close scrutiny, to provide other alternatives and to offer valid recommendations[2]. For a higher level of efficiency, the opposition members may specialize in particular departments. In developed democracies as it is the case for Great Britain, the parliamentary opposition forms an imaginary cabinet whose members are entrusted with the collection of information about particular ministries, the assessment closely the performance of different ministers and the suggestion of alterative policies to compensate for the government’s poor delivery in certain areas. In this sense, the shadow cabinet constitutes an alternative government ready for a potential takeover.

But what happens when the opposition fails to fulfill its functions?

The co-optation of the opposition by the dominant elites sacks all bids to implement a true democracy. As a matter of fact, the absence of  strategic objections towards the government’s delivery engenders a form of “consented tyranny” of the majority which constitutes a blatant breach on the tenets of democracy itself. In deficient democracies, the opposition may refrain from opposition moves in exchange of certain privileges.

Having said that, we need to pinpoint that the opposition should direct its dissention towards the global performance of the government. The act of opposition should be performed with the intent of serving the interests of citizens in the first place. It is expected to address the most crucial decisions made by the government namely the promulgation of laws that may endanger the enforcement of democracy.

It becomes obvious that the enactment of democracy within the state purports not only to the performance of the ruling government but also to the commitment of the opposition without which nepotism and corruption flare in total impunity.



[1] Sheetal Kumari in «  What is the role of the opposition ? ».

[2] ALBAN S. K. BAGBIN in “The Role, Rights and Responsibilities of the Oppostion”.

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