Rev Kenneth Stewart

Representative Parliamentary Democracy

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Representative Parliamentary Democracy

So then, in a ‘representative’ Parliament, such as we have, those who are eligible to participate in the government of the country (that is, more or less all of us over the age of 18) choose others to represent them and, in this way, we all have the right to make our laws – providing they are in accordance with the constitution.

However, it is practically impossible for this to happen – or, at least, it has been until recently. Interestingly, in the developed technological age in which we live, it should be possible to do it: just as a nation can vote electronically and quickly for the winner in an X-Factor competition, there seems to be no real barrier any more to the electorate voting on every issue before Parliament – as the democratic principle really demands.

Notoriously, and aside from administrative difficulties, one of the reasons this electronic and immediate system is not adopted by the ‘enlightened’ political elite is that it would legalise many things which they fear (for example, capital punishment which has always been supported by the democratic will of the British people) and outlaw many things which they enthusiastically advocate (such as same-sex marriage – which has always been opposed by the same democratic will of the British people, at least from the time they began to think about it).

However, historically, and for practical reasons, the principle of representation has been used. By this principle, then, we choose someone else to speak on our behalf and to vote in Parliament in our name.

Of course, it stands to reason (or, it should anyway!) that if you are not satisfied with the person who is offering to speak in your name in Parliament you should not use your vote to authorise him to do so. And herein lies the main problem with compulsory voting: why should you be forced to authorise someone else to vote on your behalf if that person has previously undertaken to legalise something that you consider wrong or sinful? This argument is enough to demonstrate that compulsory voting is fundamentally tyrannical.

The British government, then, which possesses the power to make, administer and enforce all the laws of the land, is both a Constitutional Monarchy and a Representative Parliamentary Democracy.

What is it, then, about this system which led the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland to take such a distinctive position of principled political dissent – a position shared in recent times, rather notoriously, by Sinn Fein, whose members stood for election but refused to become members of the United Kingdom parliament due to the requirement to take the Oath of Allegiance?

In order to understand this position, we need to begin with the following biblical principles for government.

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