Democracy, defined as the rule of law by the general public, operates differently in different countries around the world and is closely tied to a country's political system. Some countries, particularly the most developed, have more democracy than others. Furthermore, democracy has evolved over time (Grigorescu & Komp, 2017). For example, in ancient Athens society, the city of Greek had its own self-rule system, though slaves and women were not permitted to participate. Nonetheless, in modern society, women are permitted to participate in democracy in the majority of countries around the world. This is due to the rise of societies which advocate for the rights of women and are against the violation of human rights such as slavery. Democracy implies that the general public can participate in national matters such as drafting rules, influencing local budgets, electing political leaders of their choice, protesting against individuals or bodies which violate set laws, among others (Isin, 2013).
Liberal democracy ensures healthy development and welfare of an individual. It is designed to describe as well as to limit power in order to foster a legal government which is confined to a framework of liberty and justice (Isin, 2013). Therefore, there are four notable crucial elements within the structure. They include: Legitimacy hereby the constitutional government has the right to rule as a result of a popular vote from free and fair elections. Justice is another element which is obtained when everyone resides in a place and has equal rights and treated with respect and dignity. This occurs in representative democracy strengthened by the constitution, limits on power and unrestricted elections. Freedom is an element which implies that an individual has free choices to do what he or she wishes as long as it is legal. Power is the other element whereby definition and limits of authority are outlined in the constitution. This paper aims to examine democracy in the United States of America and Iceland by looking at similarities and differences existing between the two countries.
Similarities between USA and Iceland
There are various similarities between the democracy and political systems in both countries. The USA claims to be the world's oldest democracy. Iceland can also be termed the same because their Parliament, known as the Althing is the most ancient one and it is used up to date. In both, the head of state is the President who is elected by voters (Goodell & Vahamaa, 2016). Also, both males and females of 18 years and above have a right to vote for their leader of choice. The USA exists as a representative democracy whereby citizens are responsible for electing their government officials through the process of voting. The elected officials represent ideas and concerns of the citizens of the state while voting allows residents to take part in democracy. The US citizens are free to communicate to these officials whenever they wish to alter or support a particular rule. This is part of democracy.
There are similar branches of the government in the two countries. They include the Legislative, the Judicial and the Executive. In both, the President is part of the executive branch alongside cabinet ministers who are advisors to the president. They are tasked to head different agencies and departments (Valtysson, 2014). The judiciary in both countries consists of the Supreme Court which is the highest rank. In the USA, the president is responsible for nominating the nine justices, and the Senate must approve them by 51 or more votes. Both countries also possess a written constitution (Gylfason, 2016).
Differences between USA and Iceland
Despite the striking similarities, there are notable differences between the two. For instance, the Executive branch of the USA consists of the President, the Vice President as well as members of the Cabinet. In Iceland, it is composed of the president who acts as the state's chief, a prime minister in charge of heading the government and nine cabinet ministers (Boyer, 2013). The judicial branch of the USA consists of other lower federal courts not generated by the constitution. They were formed by the Congress to take care of federal business signifying the growth of the USA by use of power given in the constitution. In Iceland, the judiciary has numerous individual and district courts.
In the USA, the Legislative comprises of the Senate which has 100 senators who are elected by voters; there are two senators for each state, and they serve a term of six years. It also includes House of Representatives with 435 voting ones, but the number from every state depends on its population. Each one of them serves a term of two years, and it is possible for him or her to be re-elected. Elections of House of Representatives take place after two years on the first Tuesday of November including in years with even numbers. Each senator is expected to have one vote. Elections of the senator can be held during years with even numbers. Their terms are staggered, and a third of the senators emerge biannually for reelection. Terms of Senators hailing from a state do not expire at the same time apart from when there is a vacancy (Theiss, 2014). In such an event, an exceptional election is carried out together with the usually scheduled one. If one wins the exceptional one, he or she must vie when his or her predecessor's era expires. In the majority of states, two main parties carry out primary elections to choose their preferred nominees to compete in the general election. In most cases, an incumbent emerges and at times has a major rivalry, and he or he must gain the right to represent his or her party during general elections. In some instances, a famous one may not face primary rivalry hence vies directly in November during the general election. Moreover, candidates can compete independently while in the majority of states candidates are nominated by other parties. Registered voters cast votes for candidates in November and the one who scoops most votes is declared the winner.
In Iceland, the Legislative comprises of 63 members from the Althingi who are elected via popular vote. They serve a term of four years save for cases where dissolution of the Althingi happens sooner. In Iceland, there are 23 counties while the USA has 3141 counties. Iceland has five main vigorous political parties (Boyer, 2013) namely the Left- Green Movement (LGM), Independence (IP), Alliance (AP), Liberal (LP) alongside Progressive Party (PP) whereas the USA has two major active political parties namely the Democrat and the Republican (Zingale, 2014). There is no Prime Minister in the USA, but there is one in Iceland. In the USA, ministers of the cabinet are the president's advisors, but in Iceland, they are policy makers. Any eligible voter has the right to vie for an administrative position apart from the president and the Supreme Court judges. With every election, the president assigns a political party leader powers to create a cabinet mostly giving priority to a head of the chief party. If this fails, the president appoints another leader from another political party to form a government. Ministers of the cabinet reign till a new administration come to power or up to next general polls. These representatives sit in parliament, but only the elected ones are eligible to vote in the Althingi (Jonsson, 2014).
The USA has a presidential system of government whereas Iceland has a parliamentary one; which is characterized by the presence of executives in the form of a Prime Minister who is dissimilar to the State's head. In the USA, the president is the head of state and heads the executive branch. In Iceland, voters elect their choice of a president directly via secret ballot to serve a four-year term (Boyer, 2013). However, the president can continue serving without a term limit. On the other hand, a president can serve a ten-year-term in the USA. They can be elected to serve only two complete terms in response to the 22nd modification of the constitution. Even so, if one obtains the presidency by the mandate of succession, he or she can be permitted to continue serving two extra years. Conversely, the president and vice-president of the USA are elected indirectly (Flanigan & Wagner, 2014). Whereby registered voters vote in Washington D.C or any other state cast their ballot for electors (USA's Electoral College members). The USA process of election starts with primary caucuses and elections and later takes to nominating conventions whereby political parties choose a nominee, and they all support him or her. The selected candidate then announces a running mate cum vice president. These candidates carry out campaign nationwide to let the public know of their plans. They take part in presidential debates with rival candidates from opposing parties. At the time of general election, citizens cast their votes for their choice of presidential candidate. However, the winner is not announced on the basis of the tally of their votes or the popular vote. Instead, the Electoral College is the determinant of the president. A presidential candidate must win a majority of these electoral votes for him or her to be declared the winner (Zingale & Theiss, 2014). Nevertheless, in cases where none of the candidates wins the mainstream votes, the president is selected by the House of Representatives whereas the Vice President is picked by the Senate. This process of presidential election is cyclic in nature which involves:
Spring of one year before the election- candidates publicize their plans to vie.
Summer of one year before the election up to spring of the year of election- Caucus and primary debates are held.
January to June of the year of election- Parties and states participate in caucuses and primaries.
July to early September- Parties embrace conventions of nominations with the aim of choosing their candidates.
September and October-Candidates participate in presidential debates.
Early November- Registered voters elect their choice of presidential candidate on the day of election.
December- the Electoral College meets and electors vote for their preferred presidential candidate.
Early January of the new year- The votes of the electors are counted by then Congress.
20th January- The day of Inauguration.
There is a system of the Federal government in the USA whereby sovereign power is divided formally through a constitution. In most cases, the division is often between a central control and a number of integral regions (colonies, provinces or states). Every region is in charge of the administration of its internal matters. The USA recognizes federal republics whereby states have self- governance, and central government powers may be rendered ineffective upon them. Voters elect their preferred governmental representatives hence they have sovereign power (Isin, 2013). Therefore, there exists federal democracy in the USA. There exist 100 senators in the USA; two from every state as the USA has 50 states. The number of senators standing for a specific party is not constant. It is subject to change in the event of death, a member moving to another party or resigning from the Senate.
The road to achieving democracy is a process whereby some countries such as the USA and Iceland have recorded as being the world's ancient. Newer countries are still in the course of achieving it entirely. It has evolved through various stages, and now all people regardless of their gender, have a right to take part in democracy. Democracy takes different forms such as freedom, equal human rights, power, justice, and legitimacy. However, democracy varies from nation to nation even though some of its elements may be similar. From the evidence above, comparison of democracy can be made between Iceland and the USA. There are some similarities between them such as; Both males and females who have attained 18 years of age have a right to participate in polls and vote for their preferred presidential candidate through a secret ballot, similar branches of the government namely the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary which perform similar tasks as well as the president heading the executive. They also have a written constitution. Conversely, there are numerous differences in both. For instance, in Iceland the president is chosen directly by voters of the general public whereas, in the USA, the Electoral College elects the president, there are two principal political parties in the USA, but they are five in Iceland, there is a federal system in the USA which is missing in Iceland. In my opinion, I like these countries since there are fair conditions and equal rights for everyone to participate in democracy. Additionally, there is no dictatorship and people are at liberty to do what they wish so long as it is legal. From these differences, I have learned that it might not be possible for countries to have the same exact democracy. Each country has its own distinctive democracy displayed in different ways.

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