Seeking pure democracy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 April, 2004, 12:00am

Seeking pure democracy

Graham Warburton's own definition of democracy ('Definition of democracy', April 2) - 'political power exercised [by the people] directly or given to elected representatives' - implies there are forms of democracy besides governance through elected representatives.

Also, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'pure democracy' means 'democracy in which the power is exercised directly by the people rather than through representatives'. But all this misses the point - universal suffrage alone is not enough.

I believe that, at the end of the day, 'pure democracy' is not achievable and we will have to accept some form of universal suffrage as our means of electing representatives. However, this should just be the beginning of the process. As supporters of democracy, it is not only our responsibility to cast our votes but our duty to ensure that our views are accurately represented.

There are many well-established mechanisms to do so. One is the system of initiative and referendum, where the former allows the public to introduce measures and amendments to legislation to go to the people for a vote, and the latter allows acts of the elected legislature to be put to a popular vote. Another is that of ratifiers. In this system, members of a small percentage (studies say 1 per cent is adequate) of the electorate are randomly selected to serve as ratifiers on yearly terms to vote on bills passed by the legislature.

While national referendums are a regular event among the world's democracies, these mechanisms are by no means automatic in universal suffrage. Only five major democracies have never had a national referendum - the US is one of them. On the other hand, Switzerland holds four national referendums a year.

Have you ever heard Hong Kong's 'democrats' discuss this important aspect of representative democracy? To tell the public that universal suffrage is democracy is misleading, to say the least. If the Hong Kong public truly want democracy, they must demand more.

JOSEPH WONG, City University of Hong Kong

Show business

Actors use stage names and writers pen-names, so why shouldn't stock market analysts who double as media columnists use pseudonyms? After all, I thought most people understood that they are also in the entertainment business. I thought the Securities and Futures Commission had more important issues to attend to.