By JOHN MITCHELL According to American educator, minister and supporter of votes for women, Anna Garlin Spencer: “The essence of democracy is its assurance that every human being should so respect himself and should be so respected in his own personality that he should have opportunity equal to that of every other human being to show what he was meant to become.” This third article about democracy explores the fundamental principles vital for elections. In the last two issues, you learned that democracy is more than just a set of specific government institutions. You also learned that democracy is based on a wellunderstood group of principles, values, attitudes, and practices - all of which may take different forms and expressions among cultures and societies around the world. Though no two democratic countries are exactly alike, people in many democracies support the same basic principles and desire the same benefits from their government. The principles of democracy are at the core of all democratic states, with all these principles being closely connected and linked. Here are some examples of the principles often referred to as ‘signposts of democracy’, which are used to find out how democratic countries really are. Democratic societies emphasize the principle that we are all born equal and free under the law.Equality means that we are valued equally, have equal opportunities, and may not be discriminated against because of our race, religion, ethnic group, gender, language or culture, among others. In Fiji, equality is guaranteed under the 2013 Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Democratic societies are politically tolerant. This means that while the majority of the people rule in a democracy, the rights of the minority must be protected. People who are not in power must be allowed to organize and speak out on issues that affect them. Political tolerance makes sure that diverse voices and opinions are allowed to be expressed and heard in public. Accountability in a democracy means that Government officials are responsible for their actions and must make decisions and perform their duties according to the will and wishes of the people, and not for themselves. Members of Parliament elected by the people are held accountable.