Democracy means the "rule of the people". It is the most preferred system of governance in modern-day societies. A democratic society allows the masses to voice their option on the administrative process, distribution of resources and the general governance of the country. The citizens of a democratic state exercise power directly or through an electoral process that elects representatives to serve in a parliament. Democracy is sometimes interpreted as rule of the majority, a system where the majority have their way at the expense of the minority. Uncertainties in a democratic state make the forces involved struggle repeatedly for the realization of their interest. Modern day democracy in Europe otherwise known as “Western democracy” originated from the Roman Republic and from Classical Athens where the free will of the people became a crucial and integral part of determining the leadership of the land.
Democracy is achieved if the following four factors are present: (1) a political system to elect and replace the government — in several countries, this translates to an electoral process; (2) the participation of the citizen of the country; (3) the protection of human rights of the citizens; and (4) a rule of law that applies equally to all.
Democracy contrast absolute monarchy, totalitarianism, dictatorship, oligarchy and several other forms of government where power is centralized to an individual or a particular group of individuals. There are various forms of democracy although they all advocate for similar governance.
Different Forms of Government by Democratic Attributes
Representative democracy is the contemporary face of democracy. It is the most popular form of democratic governance. Representative democracy is based on the principle of electing representatives. The representatives are elected through a fair electoral process and have the power to elect other officials such as the president, prime minister and senior government officials. The role and powers of the representatives are curtailed in the constitution to balance the representative power and curb manipulation. Representative democracy is practiced in Europe, North America, parts of Africa, and several other parts of the world.
Direct democracy is also known as pure democracy. It is a system of governance in which the people choose their representative and policies directly. It is different from a representative democracy that is common in several democratic states in that people decide on policies directly without intermediaries such as members of the senate or parliament. Direct democracy can either be participatory or deliberative.
Semi-direct democracies allow citizens to elect representatives who ensure the day to day functioning of the government but the people remain sovereign with the power to push for referendum, initiative, and recalls. Political legislations are drafted by the political elites and subjected to referendums where the majority vote decides. Direct democracy is not as common as representative democracy, it is practiced in Swiss cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus, and parts of New England states of the US such as Vermont.
Liberal democracy refers to a democracy based on the ideology of classical liberalism. Classical liberalism advocates for civil liberties and economic freedom under the rule of law. Liberal democracy may assume different forms such as constitutional monarchy, republic, parliamentary system, or a presidential system. These democracies grant adults the right to own property, vote, and engage in political activities.
Social democracy refers to a political, economic and social ideology that advocates for social and economic interventions to promote economic and social developments in a capitalist economy. Social democracy seeks to establish regimes based on representative and participatory democracy. The ideology was developed to offer a serene transition from capitalism to socialism through a political process. Contemporary social democracy seeks to curb the rampant problem of oppression, inequality, poverty, and lack of basic amenities including access to healthcare, education, and care for the children and the elderly.
Totalitarian democracy, also known as anarcho-monarchism is a variant of democracy in which the citizens are allowed to vote but have no say in decision making after the electoral process. The ideology was developed by historian J. L. Talmon. According to Talmon, totalitarian democracy retains the power to impose and control everything and everyone in the absence of support from the citizenry. To maintain such power, the government suppresses any dissenting elements. The state maximizes control over the citizens by claiming that its actions are for the betterment of the majority. Citizens of the state back the actions of the government and are aware of their powerlessness. Nazi Germany is among the states that practiced this form of democracy. Totalitarian democracy is closely related to the electocracy.
Electocracy refers to a system of governance in which the people choose their leaders but are not involved in political decision making afterward. Electocracy limits political decision making and power to a few people chosen by the citizens of the state. Such forms of democracy are used to regain peace in war-torn countries where leaders are tasked with the responsibility of negotiating peace. Iraq and Afghanistan are some of the countries cited as using this form of democracy.
Demarchy is a form of democracy in which political power is left to a few randomly selected people. The decision makers are selected by sortition from a pool of eligible people. The chosen are referred to as "policy juries" or consensus conferences, and their key responsibility is to decide on policies. Demarchy is viewed as a rational substitute to representative democracy which is prone to manipulation by politicians and professional policymakers. Political analysts view demarchy as a more interactive and realistic way of governance because random selections provide a general view of the public.