The Politics of Protest and its Place in Democratic Societies

The Nature of Political Protests

The previous articles in this module discussed the nature of political systems and the nature of political revolutions and the factors that contribute to their success or failure. An important aspect of modern democracies is the nature of political protests and how they determine the character of democracies. It is only in democracies that political protests are allowed in an open manner and in dictatorships, it is usually the case that political protests are planned underground. Political protests can be over any number of issues ranging from suppression of civil liberties, price rise, erosion of democratic norms of governance, and protests over the actions and deeds of the ruling dispensation. Political protests are usually convened in response to an issue or an event and hence, they are agenda specific, which means that they are done with a goal or an aim in mind. For instance, across the world there are many political protests happening against austerity, price rise, erosion of civil and political liberties, or in response to autocratic measures by the ruling dispensation. They are also happening because people all over the world are fed up with the machinations of the powers that be and this give a chance for the political parties in the opposition to take to the streets to register their discontent.

Reasons for Political Protests

Political protests are also carried out because the parties see an opportunity to embarrass the ruling dispensation and score brownie points that would be useful to them during election time. Of course, this does not mean that all political protests are geared towards this end and one of the biggest contributions of democratic states is to allow space for political parties to protest. Indeed, people in democratic countries must feel thankful that they can protest against issues that affect them and this is a right that is denied to citizens living under dictatorships. Further, many democratic countries have constitutional safeguards wherein people are allowed to protest though there is a growing recognition in these countries that the right to protest must not be abused to the point where it becomes a burden on the average citizen.

Democracy means for the people, by the people, and of the people

Apart from this, political protests are also a useful mechanism to judge the reaction of people to various measures taken by the government. This helps the political parties to assess and gauge the mood of the people and to know what is in the interest of the people. After all, democracies are for the people, by the people, and of the people.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, political protests are a cornerstone of modern democracies wherein the voice of the people is heard and though the aspect related to inconveniencing the average citizen has to be taken into account when planning political protests, it goes without saying that unless there is a grievance redressal mechanism for people to vent their anger, no modern democracy can claim to be truly representative of the wishes of the people.


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Political Science