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Pedro Agramunt (PACE): Democracy is not the absolute rule of the majority

President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Pedro Agramunt said on Thursday that in a democracy the majority must respect the rule of law, pointing also out that the opposition's systematic recourse to parliamentary boycott could deteriorate the political climate. 

"In any democracy, the majority is still bound to the rule of law. In fact, in a well-functioning democracy, governments that enjoy a large majority ensure the inclusiveness of the political process, engage in political dialogue with the opposition and try to find commonly-agreed solutions whenever possible. (...) Democracy is not the absolute rule of the majority. It is neither a matter of mathematics nor of scoring points against another team," the PACE president told the conference "Interaction between the political majority and the opposition in a democracy" organized at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace. 

He also cautioned that the opposition should not systematically recourse to parliamentary boycott. 

"Whereas the majority has the right - and the responsibility - to govern, one should never forget the crucial role of the parliamentary opposition. Through its oversight, it reinforces the system of checks and balances and contributes to the transparency of the political process. It also allows for a richer political debate and offers the prospect of an alternative government in the future. (...) The opposition has the right to oppose the government's views but the systematic recourse to parliamentary boycott deprives the country of a functioning legislative power and is bound to deteriorate the political climate," argued Pedro Agramunt. 

The PACE President went on to say that the majority and the opposition should refrain from delegitimising each other in the eyes of the electorate. 

"Only the majority and the opposition working together can counter the feeling of disenchantment, frustration and anger which is increasingly widespread amongst our citizens. Only in this way can they build trust in the political system," he underscored. 

Pedro Agramunt also advocated the need for strong democracies in the current context. 

"In our troubled times we need strong democracies, well equipped to tackle the momentous challenges that confront us: the rise of populism - from the right and the left of the political spectrum; the threat of terrorism; the need to find a viable response to migratory flows, in line with Europe's humanitarian tradition and human rights standards; and the loss of momentum of the European project to the advantage of insularity and nationalism. The interaction between majority and opposition in parliament is the litmus test of the good functioning of a democracy," the PACE President concluded.