This article is written by Ritika Sharma, pursuing  B.Com LLB (Hons.) from the University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University. This article discusses the origin, characteristics, and merits and demerits of democracy. It also exhaustively examines the types of democracy with their peculiarities, advantages, and examples.

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Preamble of the Constitution of India, 1950 reads “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic…” India is considered the largest democracy in the world. Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.”  

A monarchy is another form of government that can be translated to “rule by one” and is similar to a dictatorship. Furthermore, oligarchy is “rule by a few” and is often criticised for being a system full of corruption and selfish motives. As democracy is considered the rule of the people, it has always been considered the most justifiable form of government when compared to systems such as oligarchy and monarchy. The four essentials of liberal democracy are legitimacy, justice, freedom, and power. This implies that the ruling government should be legitimate, should impart justice and freedom, and have a system of checks and balances over power. The follow-up piece studies the different aspects of democracy, along with a detailed analysis of the types of democracy, which include direct, representative, presidential, parliamentary, authoritarian, constitutional, monitory, and religious democracy.

Meaning of democracy

According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”  The term ‘democracy’ has been derived from the Greek words ‘demos’ meaning ‘the people’ and ‘kratos’ meaning ‘authority.’ Therefore, it means ‘government by the people.’ According to D.D. Basu’s commentary on the Constitution of India, democracy is defined as “that form of government in the administration of which the mass of the adult population has some direct or indirect share”

In the case of Mohan Lal v. Dist. Magistrate, Rai Bareilly (1993), the meaning of democracy was discussed as “a concept, a political philosophy, and an ideal practised by many nations culturally advanced and politically mature by resorting to governance by representatives of the people elected directly or indirectly.” 

Origin of democracy

The Panchayat system, which highlights the democratic setup, is an old system that is still in use today. In ancient India, the democratic form of government can be traced back to the republics called Maha Janapadas. The State of ‘Vaishali’, which is present day Bihar, was considered to be the world’s first republic. 

It is said that democracy was prevalent in multifarious areas of the world before the 5th century. There were groups amongst the tribes responsible for making decisions without any outside interference. The term ‘democracy’ was coined by the Greeks, and Athens is one of the most significant democracies in world history. The Athenian democracy encouraged equality in the decision-making process but also had various limitations as it excluded women and slaves from participating in the voting system. Ostracism is one of the leading examples of democracy in Athens, where each citizen used to participate in the process of deciding the name of the person who was to be ostracised at mass meetings. Furthermore, Roman democracy has also been instrumental in motivating the democratic system. The ancient world created a basis for the democratic form of governance. Then agriculture and trade came into the picture, and non-democratic systems such as oligarchy, monarchy, and aristocracy started to emerge. In the modern world, there are several types of democracies that have their own peculiar characteristics shaped by the history, geographical location of the country, and the will of the people.

Salient features of democratic form of government

The general characteristics that can be traced to the democratic form of government include the following:

Equal citizenship rights

In a democratic system, there is no discrimination on the basis of caste, colour, sex, religion, etc. Every person can participate freely in the decision-making process. Article 326 of the Indian Constitution lays down the provision regarding the eligibility of a voter. Also, nobody is granted special rights and privileges in these aspects, and several countries like India provide reservations in the representative positions to women and other minorities so that every section of society can have equal opportunity and status in the positions of power.

Transparency

Democracy ensures transparency with free and fair elections in which candidates are chosen by the people. Holding elections at regular intervals is a vital element of democracy as it allows the citizens to choose the person who could work for the benefit of society. In this way, people take part in the system and any scope of bias is eliminated. In India, elections to the Lok Sabha take place every 5 years. Chapter XV of the Indian Constitution specifies the provisions regarding elections. 

Free speech, expression, and choice

Democracy promotes free speech, expression, and choice. Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution provides for freedom of speech and expression and a democratic setup furthers this fundamental right. Citizens can express their wishes by favouring or opposing any political party and their ideology with the power of the vote. Encouraging citizens to express their thoughts is one of the glaring features of democracy. The public has the right to express their opinions on social media (subject to reasonable restrictions) because of the prevailing democratic form of government.

Federalism

In a democratic country like India, states have the power to take decisions without the intervention of the central government. The state government can make laws on the subject areas mentioned in the State List and Concurrent List, which consist of 61 and 52 entries, respectively. 

Independence of the judiciary

Article 50 of the Indian Constitution provides for the separation of the judiciary from the executive and it reads, “The state shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the state.”  This is a significant feature of a democratic country, and it makes the judiciary an autonomous body. The justice mechanism becomes impartial and aids in granting equal status to every citizen by treating them at par with any celebrity or person belonging to the elite class before the law.

Rule of law

The rule of law prevails over everything, and nobody is considered superior to the law. This is crucial to fixing responsibility and accountability and diminishing every trait of impartiality that could otherwise reign in a country headed by a monarch or oligarch. Furthermore, fundamental rights are granted a dominant status in a democracy.

Headed by Council

A democratic nation is not headed by a single person but by a group called the Council of Ministers. According to Article 75(3), the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of People. The Council of Ministers takes decisions and works for the best interests of society. This helps to avoid tyranny, as no single person is given the responsibility. 

Difference between democratic and non-democratic forms of government

Non-democratic forms of government include monarchy, oligarchy, aristocracy, etc. The above-discussed features of democracy highlight the essentials of a system of democracy and also roughly reflect the basis on which a democratic and non-democratic system could be distinguished. The following points mark the key differences between the two:

  • Power to rule-  As discussed, in a democracy, the ruling power is in the hands of the public and they can decide the group of persons to whom they give the power to make important decisions for the nation. On the other hand, the ruling power in a non-democratic system is in the hands of one or a few people who are not elected by the people, and therefore, the public does not have any say in the decision-making process.
  • Right to freedom- In democratic countries, people have the right to freedom of speech and expression and to form an association with which they can give their suggestions and comments on the policies framed by the government. Also, they can protest if any decision is detrimental to their interests. Conversely, all these rights are generally not available to people belonging to non-democratic countries.
  • Sovereignty- Democracy encourages sovereignty while a non-democratic government favours domination over its subjects.
  • Justice mechanism- In a democratic setup, the power to give judgments and declare punishments is with the judiciary. However, in other forms of government, there is hardly any such mechanism as only a few people who are not the representatives of the public have the power to render justice.
S. No.BasisDemocratic governmentNon-democratic government
1Power to rulePower to rule is in the hands of the public.Ruling power is in the hands of one or a few persons.
2Right to freedomThis right is available to the public.It is restricted.
3SovereigntyIt encourages sovereignty.It favours domination.
4Justice mechanismJustice is ensured by a separate branch called the ‘judiciary’.The rulers of the nation have the power to render justice.

Types of democracy

A democratic form of government can also be categorised into further sub-parts based upon some peculiar features. The following discussion underlines the different types of democracies in the world.

Direct democracy

In this type of democracy, people directly participate in the ruling process of the country, and decisions are taken by the public directly. In case any law or policy is to be introduced then citizens give their votes for or against such a matter and only then it could be passed or rejected. It is also called ‘pure democracy’ as there is no direct involvement of any intermediary who decides on behalf of the people of the country. The ancient example of direct democracy is the democratic setup in Athenian Greece. 

Forms/Features of direct democracy

Referendums, initiatives, and recalls are the intrinsic features of direct democracy. These are explained below:

  • Referendums- Switzerland follows a direct form of governance. This nation adopts various measures, such as popular initiatives  and mandatory and optional referendums, to take into account the will of the people. The answers that can be given to the referendum are usually ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For instance, in New Zealand, referendums can be both government-initiated and citizens-initiated referendums. Government-initiated referendums are promoted by the government and then public opinion is taken into consideration, while citizens-initiated referendums are purely the result of the public will and these are initiated via petitions by at least ten percent of the eligible voters. 

The usage of referendums is increasing day by day owing to the advantages it offers. It aids in resolving various conflicts between the political parties without splitting them. These are also useful when an authoritarian rule is to be transformed into a democratic form of government. The votes of citizens are the major deciding factor when changes are to be made in the constitutions of the states. 

  • Initiatives- These are of two types, namely, citizens’ initiatives and agenda initiatives. Citizens’ initiatives allow the public to file a proposal and demand a vote of the public. This could be either direct or indirect. In direct initiatives, the proposals are directly sent to the public for approval or rejection, while in indirect initiatives, the proposals are sent to the legislators, who can then send them to the public for voting, with or without amendments to the proposal. Transparent rules and the specific responsibility and accountability of the authorities are pivotal for the success of this form of direct democracy. California’s referendum on a high-speed railway system was based on citizens’ initiatives. 

On the other hand, an agenda initiative places an issue on the political agenda and requires the legislature to consider the proposals. For instance, an agenda initiative was proposed in Argentina to end the special pension funds. 

  • Recall- It is a system by which the public’s vote can remove an elected official from his/ her position before the expiration of their tenure. It acts as an essential way of putting pressure on the authorities to take action. 

Types of direct democracy

Direct democracy can be a deliberative and participatory democracy.

  • Deliberative democracy- Promotion of public discussion and consideration of reasonable views of the public in policy-making is called deliberative democracy. This theory was majorly supported by the jurist John Rawls. According to him, decisions taken after the debate would be based on a rationale that would limit the scope of self-interests and inequality in the public. The essentials of this type of democracy include public debate on the issues and processes and the promotion of reasoning based on logic rather than other factors such as religion. These would lead to the production of legitimate results, thereby creating a democratic society. Citizens’ initiative review is an example of deliberative democracy. 
  • Participatory democracy- This type of democracy aims at encouraging citizens to take policy decisions. It aims at creating umpteen number of opportunities for the people for their involvement in useful contributions, therefore it encourages interactions and discussions between the leaders and the common man. At present, no country wholly follows this type of democracy. Local self-government and the panchayat system are examples wherein citizens’ participation is considered of utmost importance. This type of democracy can lead to maximum benefits in terms of development and stability if adopted in a fair and organised manner. According to the United Nations Development Programme, “participation is a method in which people are firmly engaged in the political, economic, socio-cultural processes that affect their lives”.

Advantages of direct democracy

The following are the advantageous features of direct democracy:

  • Complete transparency- Direct democracy includes the involvement of citizens, thus, the government cannot hide any material fact from them. This leads to favourable decision-making as everyone has an idea of the outcomes.
  • Satisfaction of the public- This form of democracy ensures maximum satisfaction of the people of the nation due to maximum participation.
  • Improvement in quality of life- As the decisions are taken by the ones who face the problems and challenges, they lead to the best results thereby improving the quality of life of the public.

Other benefits include the promotion of equality, more cooperation, and responsible behaviour by the public.

Disadvantages of direct democracy

The demerits of a direct form of governance are as follows:

  • Incompetency of citizens- It is not necessary that the citizens of the nations that follow direct democracy are competent and informed. As the major decisions are taken by them directly, it can lead to flawed results.
  • Complexity- Many times, citizens have to decide on a number of propositions which causes complexity and confusion as even the most informed citizens find it difficult to make a decision on more than one issue simultaneously. 
  • Minority rights- As the decision is taken with the help of the majority vote, direct democracy can threaten the rights of vulnerable communities. It often leads to the victory of one side over the other and the losing side is often the minority, so it can cause trouble in nations consisting of people from different communities and religions. 

Some other examples of countries that follow direct democracy mechanisms are Columbia, Venezuela, Uruguay, the Philippines, etc. In the USA, there is no provision for direct democracy at the national level. However, it is followed actively in various US states. 

Representative democracy

Representative democracy is the most common type of democracy that prevails in the world today. The origins of this type can be traced back to the ancient Roman Republic. In this, decisions are taken by the elected representatives who are chosen by the voters through a majority. The policies and laws are formulated by these elected representatives of the public. Parliamentary and presidential forms of democracy are considered to be a part of representative democracy. Another name for this type is ‘indirect democracy’. As people give the power to decide to their representatives, elections become an essential feature of this type of government. Similarly, the role of political parties and the opposition is crucial. 

Features of representative democracy

The key features of representative democracy are as follows

  • Elected representatives- This is the most crucial aspect of this type of democracy, as its name suggests, the country is ruled by the representatives who are elected via elections. 
  • Independence of judiciary- The principle of separation of powers is followed in representative democracy, which makes the justice delivery system independent of the executive and legislators. For example, in India, which follows representative democracy, the Apex and subordinate courts function independently of the other two pillars of democracy.
  • Powers- The powers are exercised according to the Constitution, which contains the basic principles and laws for the operation of the country. This leads to the formation of an organised system of governance.
  • Appointment of officials- The officials of the nation following representative democracy are appointed in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution which may provide for ballot elections or other forms of governance like panchayats or local self-government. 

Advantages of representative democracy

There are several benefits to adopting representative democracy. The two most significant of these are:

  • Well-structured- Representative democracy is a well-organised form of democracy in which functions are performed in several layers. The election process itself has to be conducted systematically. Therefore, it is beneficial for the larger countries.
  • Voting rights- This is the glaring feature of representative democracy and puts the power to decide in the hands of the public through a group of people whom they trust. Additionally, voting power can be used to remove inefficient ministers from authoritative positions.
  • Equality- Representative democracy fosters equality as everyone has equal voting rights irrespective of religion, race, sex, caste, or community. This ensures equal participation and satisfaction among the public. 

Disadvantages of representative democracy

The disadvantages of this widespread form of government include an increase in costs, slow processing and reviewing of decisions, and inefficiency in the completion of long-term goals since the ruling party keeps changing at regular intervals. These are briefly discussed below:

  • Unfeasible- As elections are the vital element of representative democracy, this is a time-consuming as well as an expensive form of structure. The conduct of elections and campaigns consumes huge amounts of money and time.
  • Obstacles in long-term projects- This is one of the major demerits of democracy. As the decision-makers or representatives have the authority to work as long as they hold their position, it leads to the creation of issues in long-term development projects since the representatives keep changing. 
  • Conflicts- It leads to conflicts between the political parties, which aim to attract voters with different ideals and objectives. Consequently, it causes confusion in the minds of eligible voters.

Some of the examples of countries that follow representative types of democracy are India, the USA, the UK, Canada, and Australia.

Presidential democracy

In a presidential democracy, the President has greater power than the government of the state, and the head of the state is also the head of the government. 

Features of presidential democracy

The chief features of this system are highlighted below:

  • The President is both the de jure and de facto head of the state.
  • There is no dominant role of the Legislature, and the President heads the Cabinet members who are not answerable to the Legislature of the state. The President has full discretion to select the members of his cabinet.
  • Unlike in a parliamentary democracy, the President cannot be removed via a no-confidence motion in Parliament. 
  • The President is empowered to formulate policies and laws for the Legislature.

Advantages of presidential democracy

The following points reflect the benefits of presidential democracy:

  • As the President can choose the members of the Cabinet without any interference from the Legislature, he/ she makes the best efforts to select experts and competent people.
  • There is relatively less scope for politics as the President works with the aid of Cabinet members without any intervention.
  • The vices, such as defections or desertions are less prevalent in this system. 

Examples of countries that follow the presidential democracy system are the USA, Brazil, and Sri Lanka.

Parliamentary democracy

In this type, the role of Parliament is the highest when decisions regarding the passing of a bill or policy are to be taken. The power of the legislature is greater than that of the executive branch of the government. The Parliament has the right to choose and remove the head of the state. 

Features of parliamentary democracy

Some popular characteristics of parliamentary democracy are:

  • The head of the state is merely a constitutional head and the Council of Ministers is empowered to take decisions and is accountable to the Legislature. 
  • The Council of Ministers is itself an element of the Legislature and also has to get majority support from the latter.
  • The central power lies with the head of the state (Prime Minister), who also heads the Council of Ministers. Any minister in the Council of Ministers holds a position at the pleasure of the head.
  • The Council of Ministers is collectively answerable to the Legislature and also depends upon the will of the Legislature.
  • The ministers function as a team, and in the case of any disagreement, they have to move collectively as one unit and affirm what the majority favours or otherwise resign. 

Advantages of parliamentary democracy

India follows this democratic system due to the following benefits:

  • Due to British rule, India was already familiar with this system.
  • This system offers the benefits of separation of power and harmony between the Legislature and the Executive.
  • There is the feature of accountability in this system which can keep a check on the functioning of the ministers.

Other countries which follow parliamentary democracy are the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, etc.

Authoritarian democracy

In an authoritarian democracy, there is the dominance of the elite class. The wealthy and elite sections of society are part of Parliament, and the citizens have to choose amongst them. 

Features of an authoritarian democracy

Two features of an authoritarian form of government make it a type of democracy. These are:

  • Firstly, although from a selected pool, people have the power to choose their representatives.
  • Secondly, this system embraces the democratic model, i.e., the executive and legislative branches.

Advantages of an authoritarian democracy

The benefits of this form of democracy include:

  • Saves time and money- Since the prospective candidates belonging to the elite class are already fewer so less time and money are consumed in the election and decision-making processes.
  • More clarity- This system of democracy is easy to understand since there are no complex government hierarchies as in parliamentary and presidential democratic setups.

Constitutional democracy

This type aims at protecting the rights of minorities and vulnerable sections of society by restricting the authority of the majority communities. 

Features of constitutional democracy

  • Sovereignty- The consent of the public is of utmost importance and the ruling party governs with the consent of the people and for their benefit.
  • Rights of minority- In this type of democracy, more attention is paid to the protection of the rights of minorities, so it’s a democracy for the minority section of the population.
  • Limited powers of the government- The ‘institutional and procedural’ limitations are imposed on the powers of the government. This is achieved by, firstly, the division of powers amongst three organs (legislative, executive, and judiciary) and further sharing of functions with other branches; secondly, a stringent mechanism of checks and balances and thirdly, following the rule of law.

Advantages of constitutional democracy

Apart from the fact that it protects the rights of minorities, the following are some other merits of this type of democracy:

  • Freedom of conscience and expression- This type aims at following the constitutional principles like freedom of conscience and expression sacredly, leading to the promotion of participation of the citizens in decision-making processes.
  • Protection of right to privacy- Privacy concerns are taken into account and personal, family, medical, religious, and other types of privacies are protected under a constitutional democracy.
  • Equality and justice- The country functions in such a way that the citizens’ rights to political, economic, and social equality are considered to be on a higher pedestal, which also ensures justice by the law enforcement agencies.

The countries that follow constitutional democracy are Israel, the USA, Germany, Japan, etc. 

Monitory democracy

It’s a form of democracy in which several agencies monitor the ruling authorities. It evolved after the Second World War and its idea was introduced by Professor John Keane. It basically aims at inculcating a system of checks and balances over the government. John Keane, in his book The Life and Death of Democracy, stated that this system reflects the notion of “one person, many interests, many voices, multiple voters, multiple representatives”. 

Elements of monitory democracy

There are three basic elements that make monitory democracy a success by providing the means of monitoring. These are:

  • Guide-dog institutions- These are anti-corruption agencies that act as monitoring bodies in guiding the democratic framework of their countries.
  • Watch-dog institutions- According to John Keane, these include “ombudsmen, royal commissions, public enquiries, and independent auditors’ checks”. It is another means to restrain the arbitrary power of the government and make it follow particular standards and principles.
  • Non-government organisations- These are the most famous elements which help society keep a check on the powers of the state. Additionally, they work for the interests of society and equip the public with necessary information regarding public policies. 

Examples of other monitoring bodies include petitions, consumer forums, think tanks, social forums, focus groups, etc. Some of the countries which follow monitory democracy include the USA, New Zealand, Argentina, Japan, Australia, and some European and South Asian nations.

Religious democracy

Religious democracy refers to the system in which the scriptures or other sacred texts are followed for the governance of the country. In an Islamic democracy, religion is the basis of ruling and formulating laws and policies. The principles of government are also structured in consonance with secular laws. The most perfect example of this type of democracy is Islamic democracy, where the representatives of the people have to consider and follow the teachings of Islam and rule accordingly. 

Direct democracy in relation to representative democracy

Direct and representative (indirect) democracies are often considered contradictory to each other. However, both of these have similar purposes. In a representative democracy, the decision-making power is given to elected representatives by the public, and in a direct democracy, the public itself participates in this process with the help of referendums. The issue with representative democracy is that it might not produce the results that the public expects from its representatives as it involves contentious political issues. But, direct democracy also faces certain issues. For example, if a referendum has already been conducted on a particular matter, it poses problems for the holding of a referendum on the same matter again. 

The following table highlights the differences between direct and representative democracy.

S. No.BasisDirect democracyRepresentative democracy
1Decision-making powerThe decision-making power is in the hands of the public and all the laws and policies are formulated with the help of referendums.The decision-making power is in the hands of the elected representatives. 
2Presence of intermediaries The citizens directly take part in the important matters of the nation, so there are no intermediaries.The elected representatives act as intermediaries.
3Transparent/ non-transparentIt is more transparent than the representative form of democracy.It is less transparent as work is performed by the representatives.  
4Important featureReferendums are the essential part of direct democracy through which consent on the formulation of policies and laws is gathered.The essential feature of representative democracy is that elections are held at regular intervals and in an organised manner.
5EffectivenessIt is relatively time-consuming as the process of referendums and framing of laws takes a lot of time.It is less time-consuming than direct representation due to the involvement of representatives.
6ExamplesThe countries which follow direct democracy are Switzerland, The countries which follow representative democracy are India, the USA, the UK, etc.

Presidential democracy in relation to parliamentary democracy

Both the presidential and parliamentary forms of government are considered to be a part of representative democracy as the decisions are taken by the elected representatives. However, in a parliamentary democracy, the parliament is involved and is accountable to the legislature, while the executive branch of the presidential system is independent of the legislature. 

The following table marks the differences between the two.

S. No. BasisPresidential democracyParliamentary democracy
1MeaningIt can be defined as the form of government in which the President is the chief head and the executive and legislature function independently of each other.It can be defined as the form of government in which there is a system of parliament and a council which is accountable to the legislature.
2Selection of ministersMinisters are selected by the President, and usually a team of experts is chosen. Generally, members of parliament are selected as ministers and no outsider is included.
3Head of the state and governmentThe President is the head of the state and the head of the government.The head of the state and the head of the government are different people.
4AccountabilityThe executive is not accountable to the legislature.The executive is accountable to the legislature.
5Separation of powersThere is a separation of powers between the judiciary, executive, and legislature.There are instances of overlapping functions and powers of these organs.
6AutocracyAs the President has more discretion than the head of the state in a parliamentary form of democracy, therefore, there is relatively more autocracy.It is less autocratic.
7Tenure of the headThe tenure of the President is fixed.The tenure depends upon the support of the Parliament.
8ExamplesThe examples of countries following a presidential form of democracy are the USA, Brazil, Sri Lanka, etc.It is followed in India, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, etc.

Merits and demerits of a democratic form of government

Merits

In a democracy, the considerations of the common public are taken into account. Therefore, it is considered the best form of government. The following points will shed light upon the several merits of a democratic setup:

  • Answerability- The election process and the power in the hands of a few, make the decision-making authorities answerable to the general public, so the representatives owe a duty to them and strive to formulate the rules and regulations for the benefit of society. Similarly, it allows people to question them on the steps they take.
  • Good decision-making- The power in the hands of voters to elect, together with the pressure from the opposition, makes the ruling party work efficiently, which increases the quality of decision-making and prevents the formulation and implementation of non-beneficial or corrupt rules.
  • Reduces exploitation- Democracy reduces exploitation of the weaker communities. This is achieved from two angles. Firstly, it does not encourage any prejudicial notions against any section on the basis of caste, race, or sex and aims at reaching equity by introducing reservations for the positions of authority. Secondly, every citizen is eligible to be a voter, irrespective of their community and religion (subject to adult suffrage and Article 326 of the Indian Constitution). Therefore, the chosen representatives work, keeping in mind the interests of every being.
  • Fosters economic development- Democratic governments foster economic development as they promote equality and freedom so each section of the population gets equal opportunities in terms of education and employment.
  • Stability- Democratic countries are considered more stable than non-democratic because there are fewer disagreements and aggressive behaviour on the part of the public as decisions are taken by elected representatives of the majority. The structure of democracy is such that there are fewer chances of armed conflicts such as belligerency or insurgency.
  • Separation of powers- Separation of powers among the judiciary, executive, and legislature is one of the crucial features of democracy which saves a country from conflict due to usurpation of powers and presents the most structured system before the public.

Demerits

The loopholes in the democratic form of a system are illuminated below:

  • Based upon the will of the majority- As discussed, the people who get the maximum votes become the representatives of the public, but it then lacks the will of the minority of the population so it cannot be said that the ruling party was elected by all the citizens, rather they represent the majority class.
  • Ineffective- The voting system becomes ineffective when the population who is to vote is not educated and lacks the correct decision-making abilities. People, sometimes, get fascinated by the promises made by the parties in their election campaigns and vote for them without gauging their previous performances and development prospects of the agendas they put forth. This makes the system ineffective and deviates from democratic principles and purposes.
  • Expensive form of government- Election processes entail huge funds which make the whole process a costly affair for the developed and least developed nations.
  • Slower implementation- Apart from being an expensive system, the democratic form of government works at a snail’s pace. The election process itself consumes plenty of time, and then reviews take more of it. Furthermore, passing bills in the parliamentary form of democracy is also a time-consuming procedure. Consequently, in democracies, the implementation of the changes is relatively slower.
  • Obstacles in long-term projects- Changes in the ruling party every five years create obstacles in the long-term development projects that hinder the growth of democratic countries. 

Concluding remarks

Although democracy has both merits and demerits, the former surpasses the latter, and every nation could strive to overcome the pitfalls they face in their democratic systems. 

There are some ideologies around the types of democracy that have arisen owing to several setbacks in democratic principles around the world. These include aggregative and radical democracy. The former showcases the idea that the opinion of the people should be encouraged at the stages when the policies are to be adopted, and radical democracy aims at upholding the principles of equality and freedom and keeping them at the highest pedestal. With the domination of representative democracy in the world, these notions are often overlooked or are being undermined. There are multifarious factors, such as issues of defections, aggressive competition amongst political parties, corruption, etc., due to which the debate on whether India should switch over to a presidential democracy has never been in a state of hibernation. However, the adoption of a completely different system would demand a lot of effort since the system would have to be tailor-made according to our constitutional principles. 

Above all, any democratic setup cannot reap benefits unless the government is honest, competent, and does not involve itself in any kind of unscrupulous means.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is monarchy termed tyranny?

According to the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, the word ‘tyranny’ refers to “oppressive power exerted by a government” or “a government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler”. Thus, it represents a monarch’s rule and points to the fact that in case a single person rules the nation without any system of representatives, he/ she is most likely to exert oppressive power over the public. 

How does democracy prevent armed conflicts?

Examples of armed conflicts are belligerency and insurgency. Belligerency is the state of conflict between two rival powers in a country, while insurgency refers to a revolt against the established government. In a democracy, when the will of the citizens is taken into account while selecting the representatives, there are very few chances of a state of belligerency and insurgency.

Which are the major democracies in the world?

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2021, the world’s top 10 most democratic places include Norway, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Ireland, Taiwan, Australia, and Switzerland.

Which countries are ruled by a non-democratic form of government?

Non-democratic forms of government include monarchy, oligarchy, and authoritarian forms of government. In Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the monarchy system is prevalent, wherein a single person rules the country. North Korea follows an authoritarian system of government. Vietnam follows the one-party system, which single-handedly rules the nation without any opposition, and China is a communist state. 

How can democracy be strengthened?

Protection of the rights of citizens is an essential component of a democratic government. Thus, establishing a system that preserves the rights to free speech and expression, the right to form associations, and the right to choice is crucial. Furthermore, work needs to be done at the ground level by creating awareness and educating the voters on how to make a robust structure. 

What are referendums?

Referendums are the votes of the public. In a direct democracy, laws and policies are introduced at the will of the majority of the citizens of the nation. Therefore, referendums are the instruments that carry out this procedure of voting. 

What is the difference between a citizens’ initiative and an agenda initiative?

In citizens’ initiatives, the citizens of the nation have a crucial role in making proposals for the purpose of voting, while in agenda initiatives, the issues are placed on the political agendas and the legislators act upon the proposals. These two can overlap when there is just one person eligible to put an issue on the political agenda.

References


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