Accountability: being responsible and answerable to the people. Those who exercise power, whether as governments, as elected representatives or as appointed officials must be accountable to the people.
Amendment: a change made to a bill, law, constitutional provision or regulation.
Authority: the right and
duty to make decisions, and the power to enforce them.
Bill of rights: a document that outlines the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people and forbids the government from violating those rights.
Cabinet: the senior ministers of a government. Each cabinet member is the head of a government department.
Civil liberties: freedoms or rights which are vital to the functioning of a democratic society. They include freedom of speech, religion, movement, association, right to fair trial and freedom of the person.
Civil rights: fundamental rights that everyone should enjoy on an equal basis regardless of race, religion, gender or other factors. They include the human rights to legal equality, right to a fair trial and the right to be free from inhuman treatment or discrimination, and the political rights to freedom of speech, association and worship.
Checks and balances: limitations on the powers of each branch of government. By dividing the powers of government among three branches, each branch may check or balance the power of the others.
Centralization: the concentration
of power in the central government and at the national level, rather than being
shared between national, regional and local authorities.
Constitution: the set of
rights, powers and procedures that defines the relationships between the state's
public authorities, and between the public authorities and individual citizens.
Usually a written document but may be supplemented by judicial decisions, custom
Coalition: a temporary union of parties that together have a majority of seats in parliament or legislature.
Decentralization: the process or situation in which powers and responsibilities are transferred from a central authority to regional and local authorities.
Decree: an official order or a legal rule issued directly by a minister or department of state under direct authority granted by a constitution or other legislation. It has all the power of parliamentary legislation.
Deputies: elected members of a legislative assembly. A deputy has an obligation to represent the views of those voters who elected him or her.
Election: a method of selecting political leaders by voting.
Executive: the branch of a democratic government that makes decisions and oversees the implementation of laws. In the U.S., the president and his advisors are the executive branch.
Federalism: a system of government
in which power is constitutionally divided between two levels of government:
national and regional. Each level has some sovereignty and while the central
government retains control over areas such as foreign affairs, defense and money
supply, the regional governments hold considerable authority in such areas as
education, health care and justice.
Impeachment: an official charge by a legislative body accusing a government official of being unworthy of office.
Judiciary: the branch of government consisting of judges and courts. This branch interprets laws and dispenses justice when laws have been broken.
Legislature: the official law-making body of a political system.
Legitimacy: the widespread acceptance of the authority of a public government.
Parliament: the highest legislative or national lawmaking body. It is usually made up of elected representatives but sometimes includes appointed members.
Pressure groups: voluntary organizations formed to defend a particular interest in society or to promote a cause or political position.
Plebiscite: the direct vote
of all the people of a state on an important public question.
Plurality: the number of votes cast for a candidate who receives more than any other but does not receive an absolute majority.
Political party: an organized group of people who agree philosophically and work to get their members into elected office.
Republic: a form of government in which citizens elect representatives to manage the government.
Referendum: a method of referring
a question or set of questions to the electorate directly rather than allowing
them to he settled by the people's representatives in the legislature.
Suffrage/franchise: another name for the right to vote.
Unitary system of government: one in which the principal authorities are held by the central government. The regional and local governments are created by the central government and possess only those powers that the central government accords them.