Representative democracy (also indirect democracy, representative government or psephocracy) is a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy. Nearly all modern Western-style democracies are types of representative democracies; for example, the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, France is a unitary state, and the United States is a federal republic.
It is an element of both the parliamentary and the presidential systems of government and is typically used in a lower chamber such as the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, Lok Sabha of India, and may be curtailed by constitutional constraints such as an upper chamber. It has been described by some political theorists including Robert A. Dahl, Gregory Houston and Ian Liebenberg as polyarchy. In it the power is in the hands of the representatives who are elected by the people. Political parties are often central to this form of democracy because electoral systems require voters to vote for political parties as opposed to individual representatives.
Representatives are elected by the public, as in national elections for the national legislature. Elected representatives may hold the power to select other representatives, presidents, or other officers of the government or of the legislature, as the Prime Minister in the latter case. (indirect representation).
Theorists such as Edmund Burke believe that part of the duty of a representative was not simply to communicate the wishes of the electorate but also to use their own judgement in the exercise of their powers, even if their views are not reflective of those of a majority of voters:
...it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
The Roman Republic was the first known government in the western world to have a representative government, despite taking the form of a direct government in the Roman assemblies. The Roman model of governance inspired many political thinkers over the centuries, and today's modern representative democracies imitate more the Roman than the Greek models because it was a state in which supreme power was held by the people and their elected representatives, and which had an elected or nominated leader. Representative democracy is a form of democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives as opposed to a direct democracy, a form of democracy in which people vote on policy initiatives directly. A European medieval tradition of selecting representatives from the various estates (classes, but not as we know them today) to advise/control monarchs led to relatively wide familiarity with representative systems inspired by Roman systems.
In Britain, Simon de Montfort is remembered as one of the fathers of representative government for holding two famous parliaments. The first, in 1258, stripped the King of unlimited authority and the second, in 1265, included ordinary citizens from the towns. Later, in the 17th century, the Parliament of England pioneered some of the ideas and systems of liberal democracy culminating in the Glorious Revolution and passage of the Bill of Rights 1689.
The American Revolution led to the creation of a new Constitution of the United States in 1787, with a national legislature based partly on direct elections of representatives every two years, and thus responsible to the electorate for continuance in office. Senators were not directly elected by the people until the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913. Women, men who owned no property, and blacks, and others not originally given voting rights in most states eventually gained the vote through changes in state and federal law in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. Until it was repealed by the Fourteenth Amendment following the Civil War, the Three-Fifths Compromise gave a disproportionate representation of slave states in the House of Representatives relative to the voters in free states.
In 1789, Revolutionary France adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and, although short-lived, the National Convention was elected by all males in 1792. Universal male suffrage was re-established in France in the wake of the French Revolution of 1848.
Representative democracy came into particular general favour in post-industrial revolution nation states where large numbers of citizens evinced interest in politics, but where technology and population figures remained unsuited to direct democracy. As noted above, Edmund Burke in his speech to the electors of Bristol classically analysed their operation in Britain and the rights and duties of an elected representative.
Globally, a majority of the world's people live in representative democracies including constitutional monarchies and republics with strong representative branches.
Separate but related, and very large, bodies of research in political philosophy and social science investigate how and how well elected representatives, such as legislators, represent the interests or preferences of one or another constituency.
In his book Political Parties, written in 1911, Robert Michels argues that most representative systems deteriorate towards an oligarchy or particracy. This is known as the iron law of oligarchy. Representative democracies which are stable have been analysed by Adolf Gasser and compared to the unstable representative democracies in his book "Gemeindefreiheit als Rettung Europas" which was published in 1943 (first edition in German) and a second edition in 1947 (in German). Adolf Gasser stated the following requirements for a representative democracy in order to remain stable, unaffected by the iron law of oligarchy:
A drawback to this type of government is that elected officials are not required to fulfill promises made before their election and are able to promote their own self-interests once elected, providing an incohesive system of governance. Legislators are also under scrutiny as the system of majority-won legislators voting for issues for the large group of people fosters inequality among the marginalized.
The system of stochocracy has been proposed as an improved system compared to the system of representative democracy, where representatives are elected. Stochocracy aims to at least reduce this degradation by having all representatives appointed by lottery instead of by voting. Therefore, this system is also called lottocracy. The system was proposed by the writer Roger de Sizif in 1998 in his book La Stochocratie. Choosing officeholders by lot was also the standard practice in ancient Athenian democracy. The rationale behind this practice was to avoid lobbying and electioneering by economic oligarchs.
The system of deliberative democracy is a mix between a majority ruled system and a consensus-based system. It allows for representative democracies or direct democracies to coexist with its system of governance, providing an initial advantage.
Britain pioneered the system of liberal democracy that has now spread in one form or another to most of the world's countries
The earliest, and perhaps greatest, victory for liberalism was achieved in England. The rising commercial class that had supported the Tudor monarchy in the 16th century led the revolutionary battle in the 17th, and succeeded in establishing the supremacy of Parliament and, eventually, of the House of Commons. What emerged as the distinctive feature of modern constitutionalism was not the insistence on the idea that the king is subject to law (although this concept is an essential attribute of all constitutionalism). This notion was already well established in the Middle Ages. What was distinctive was the establishment of effective means of political control whereby the rule of law might be enforced. Modern constitutionalism was born with the political requirement that representative government depended upon the consent of citizen subjects.... However, as can be seen through provisions in the 1689 Bill of Rights, the English Revolution was fought not just to protect the rights of property (in the narrow sense) but to establish those liberties which liberals believed essential to human dignity and moral worth. The "rights of man" enumerated in the English Bill of Rights gradually were proclaimed beyond the boundaries of England, notably in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 and in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789.
Constitution of Mongolia (Mongolian: Монгол Улсын Үндсэн Хууль, Mongol Ulsīn Ündsen Húlĭ, "General Law of the Mongolian State") is the constitution of Mongolia.
It was adopted on January 13, 1992, put into force on February 12, and amended in 1999 and 2001. The new constitution established a representative democracy in Mongolia, guaranteeing freedom of religion, rights, travel, expression, unalienable rights, government setup, election cycle, and other matters. It was written after the 1990 Mongolian democratic revolution that dissolved the Mongolian People's Republic. It consists of a preamble followed by six chapters divided into 70 articles.It is very close to and/or inspired by Western constitutions in terms of freedom of press, inalienable rights, freedom to travel, and other rights.
Previous constitutions had been adopted in 1924, 1940 and 1960.Delegative democracy
Delegative democracy, also known as liquid democracy, is a form of democracy whereby an electorate has the option of vesting voting power in delegates rather than voting directly themselves. The term is a generic description of either already-existing or proposed popular-control apparatuses. Voters can either vote directly or delegate their vote to other participants; voters may select different delegates for different issues. In other words, individual A of a society can delegate its power to another individual B – and withdraw such power again at any time.
Delegative Democracy lies between direct and representative democracy. In direct democracy, participants must vote personally on all issues, while in representative democracy participants vote for representatives once in certain election cycles. Meanwhile, liquid democracy does not depend on representatives but rather on a weighted and transitory delegation of votes. Delegative democracy through elections should empower individuals to become sole interpreters of the interests of the nation. It allows for citizens to directly vote on policy issues, delegate their votes on one or multiple policy areas to delegates of their choosing, delegate votes to one or more people, delegated to them as a weighted voter, or get rid of their votes' delegations whenever they please.Most of the available academic literature on liquid democracy is based on empirical research rather than on specific conceptualization or theories. Experiments have mostly been conducted on a local level or exclusively through online platforms, however polity examples are listed below.
An unrelated concept, also called "delegative democracy", but referring to a semi-authoritarian government, has been articulated by Guillermo O’Donnell and other authors. In O'Donnell's form, democratically elected representatives use their democratic legitimacy to justify authoritarian behavior. This form of delegative democracy is treated in a distinct section, below.Democracy
Democracy (Greek: δημοκρατία dēmokratía, literally "rule by people") is a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting. In a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue. In a representative democracy the citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives meet to form a governing body, such as a legislature. In a constitutional democracy the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority, usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of association."Rule of the majority" is commonly referred to as democracy. John Locke wrote: “There is no practical alternative to majority political rule – i.e., to taking the consent of the majority as the act of the whole and binding every individual. It would be next to impossible to obtain the consent of every individual before acting collectively ... No rational people could desire and constitute a society that had to dissolve straightaway because the majority was unable to make the final decision and the society was incapable of acting as one body."Democracy is a system of processing conflicts in which outcomes depend on what participants do, but no single force controls what occurs and its outcomes. The uncertainty of outcomes is inherent in democracy. Democracy makes all forces struggle repeatedly to realize their interests and devolves power from groups of people to sets of rules. Western democracy, as distinct from that which existed in pre-modern societies, is generally considered to have originated in city-states such as Classical Athens and the Roman Republic, where various schemes and degrees of enfranchisement of the free male population were observed before the form disappeared in the West at the beginning of late antiquity. The English word dates back to the 16th century, from the older Middle French and Middle Latin equivalents.
According to American political scientist Larry Diamond, democracy consists of four key elements: a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; protection of the human rights of all citizens; a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens. Todd Landman, nevertheless, draws our attention to the fact that democracy and human rights are two different concepts and that "there must be greater specificity in the conceptualisation and operationalization of democracy and human rights".The term appeared in the 5th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in Greek city-states, notably Athens, to mean "rule of the people", in contrast to aristocracy (ἀριστοκρατία, aristokratía), meaning "rule of an elite". While theoretically these definitions are in opposition, in practice the distinction has been blurred historically. The political system of Classical Athens, for example, granted democratic citizenship to free men and excluded slaves and women from political participation. In virtually all democratic governments throughout ancient and modern history, democratic citizenship consisted of an elite class, until full enfranchisement was won for all adult citizens in most modern democracies through the suffrage movements of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Democracy contrasts with forms of government where power is either held by an individual, as in an absolute monarchy, or where power is held by a small number of individuals, as in an oligarchy. Nevertheless, these oppositions, inherited from Greek philosophy, are now ambiguous because contemporary governments have mixed democratic, oligarchic and monarchic elements. Karl Popper defined democracy in contrast to dictatorship or tyranny, thus focusing on opportunities for the people to control their leaders and to oust them without the need for a revolution.Direct election
Direct election is a system of choosing political officeholders in which the voters directly cast ballots for the persons, or political party that they desire to see elected. The method by which the winner or winners of a direct election are chosen depends upon the electoral system used. The most commonly used systems are the plurality system and the two-round system for single-winner elections, such as a presidential election, and party-list proportional representation for the election of a legislature.
Examples of directly elected bodies are the European Parliament (since 1979) and the United States House of Representatives. The MPs (members of parliament), MLAs (members of legislature) and members of the local bodies are elected by direct election.
By contrast, in an indirect election, the voters elect a body which in turn elects the officeholder in question.
In a double direct election, the elected representative serves on two councils, typically a lower tier municipality and an upper tier regional district or municipality.Election
An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy has operated since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the executive and judiciary, and for regional and local government. This process is also used in many other private and business organizations, from clubs to voluntary associations and corporations.The universal use of elections as a tool for selecting representatives in modern representative democracies is in contrast with the practice in the democratic archetype, ancient Athens, where the Elections were not used were considered an oligarchic institution and most political offices were filled using sortition, also known as allotment, by which officeholders were chosen by lot.Electoral reform describes the process of introducing fair electoral systems where they are not in place, or improving the fairness or effectiveness of existing systems. Psephology is the study of results and other statistics relating to elections (especially with a view to predicting future results).
To elect means "to choose or make a decision", and so sometimes other forms of ballot such as referendums are referred to as elections, especially in the United States.General Assembly of the Ottoman Empire
The General Assembly (Turkish: Meclis-i Umumî or Genel Parlamento) was the first attempt at representative democracy by the imperial government of the Ottoman Empire. Also known as the Ottoman Parliament, it was located in Constantinople (Istanbul) and was composed of two houses: an upper house (Senate, Meclis-i Âyân), and a lower house (Chamber of Deputies, Meclis-i Mebusân).The General Assembly was first constituted on 23 December 1876 and initially lasted until 14 February 1878, when it was dissolved by Sultan Abdul Hamid II.It was revived 30 years later, on 23 July 1908, with the Second Constitutional Era (as a result of the Young Turk Revolution) which brought substantial reforms and larger participation by political parties. The Second Constitutional Era ended on 11 April 1920, when the General Assembly (Ottoman Parliament) was dissolved by the Allies during the occupation of Constantinople in the aftermath of World War I.Many members of the dissolved Ottoman Parliament in Istanbul later became members of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, which was established on 23 April 1920, during the Turkish War of Independence.Government of Malaysia
Government of Malaysia officially the Federal Government of Malaysia (Malay: Kerajaan Persekutuan Malaysia) is based in the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and the federal executive based in Putrajaya. Malaysia is a federation of 13 states operating within a constitutional monarchy under the Westminster parliamentary system and is categorised as a representative democracy. The federal government of Malaysia adheres to and is created by the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, the supreme law of the land.
The federal government adopts the principle of separation of powers under Article 127 of the Federal Constitution, and has three branches: executive, legislature and judiciary. The state governments in Malaysia also have their respective executive and legislative bodies. The judicial system in Malaysia is a federalised court system operating uniformly throughout the country.Iron law of oligarchy
The iron law of oligarchy is a political theory, first developed by the German sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties. It asserts that rule by an elite, or oligarchy, is inevitable as an "iron law" within any democratic organization as part of the "tactical and technical necessities" of organization.Michels's theory states that all complex organizations, regardless of how democratic they are when started, eventually develop into oligarchies. Michels observed that since no sufficiently large and complex organization can function purely as a direct democracy, power within an organization will always get delegated to individuals within that group, elected or otherwise.
Using anecdotes from political parties and trade unions struggling to operate democratically to build his argument in 1911, Michels addressed the application of this law to representative democracy, and stated: "Who says organization, says oligarchy." He went on to state that "Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy."According to Michels all organizations eventually come to be run by a "leadership class", who often function as paid administrators, executives, spokespersons or political strategists for the organization. Far from being "servants of the masses", Michels argues this "leadership class," rather than the organization's membership, will inevitably grow to dominate the organization's power structures. By controlling who has access to information, those in power can centralize their power successfully, often with little accountability, due to the apathy, indifference and non-participation most rank and file members have in relation to their organization's decision-making processes. Michels argues that democratic attempts to hold leadership positions accountable are prone to fail, since with power comes the ability to reward loyalty, the ability to control information about the organization, and the ability to control what procedures the organization follows when making decisions. All of these mechanisms can be used to strongly influence the outcome of any decisions made 'democratically' by members.Michels stated that the official goal of representative democracy of eliminating elite rule was impossible, that representative democracy is a façade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite, and that elite rule, which he refers to as oligarchy, is inevitable. Later Michels migrated to Italy and joined Benito Mussolini's Fascist Party, as he believed this was the next legitimate step of modern societies. The thesis became popular once more in post-war America with the publication of Union Democracy: The Internal Politics of the International Typographical Union (1956) and during the red scare brought about by McCarthyism.Mandate (politics)
In politics, a mandate is the authority granted by a constituency to act as its representative.The concept of a government having a legitimate mandate to govern via the fair winning of a democratic election is a central idea of representative democracy. New governments who attempt to introduce policies that they did not make public during an election campaign are said not to have a legitimate mandate to implement such policies.
Elections, especially ones with a large margin of victory, and are often said to give the newly elected government or elected official an implicit mandate to put into effect certain policies. When a government seeks re-election they may introduce new policies as part of the campaign and are hoping for approval from the voters, and say they are seeking a "new mandate".
In some languages, a "mandate" can mean a parliamentary seat won in an election rather than the electoral victory itself. In case such a mandate is bound to the wishes of the electorate, it is an imperative mandate, otherwise it is called "free".Participatory democracy
Participatory democracy emphasizes the broad participation of constituents in the direction and operation of political systems. Etymological roots of democracy (Greek demos and kratos) imply that the people are in power and thus that all democracies are participatory. However, participatory democracy tends to advocate more involved forms of citizen participation and greater political representation than traditional representative democracy.
Participatory democracy strives to create opportunities for all members of a population to make meaningful contributions to decision-making, and seeks to broaden the range of people who have access to such opportunities. Since so much information must be gathered for the overall decision-making process to succeed, technology may provide important forces leading to the type of empowerment needed for participatory models, especially those technological tools that enable community narratives and correspond to the accretion of knowledge. Effectively increasing the scale of participation, and translating small but effective participation groups into small world networks, are areas currently being studied. Other advocates have emphasized the importance of face to face meetings, warning that an overreliance on technology can be harmful.Some scholars argue for refocusing the term on community-based activity within the domain of civil society, based on the belief that a strong non-governmental public sphere is a precondition for the emergence of a strong liberal democracy. These scholars tend to stress the value of separation between the realm of civil society and the formal political realm. In 2011, considerable grassroots interest in participatory democracy was generated by the Occupy movement.Politics of Abruzzo
The Politics of Abruzzo, Italy takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democracy, whereby the President of Regional Government is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the Regional Government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Regional Council.Politics of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
The Politics of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democracy, where the President of Regional Government is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the Regional Government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Regional Council.Politics of Guam
Guam is a presidential representative democracy, whereby the Governor is head of government, and of a multi-party system. Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States with policy relations between Guam and the US under the jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs.Politics of Lazio
The Politics of Lazio, Italy takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democracy, whereby the President of Regional Government is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the Regional Government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Regional Council.Politics of Liguria
The Politics of Liguria, Italy takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democracy, whereby the President of Regional Government is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the Regional Government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Regional Council.Politics of Molise
The Politics of Molise, Italy takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democracy, whereby the president of regional government is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the regional government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Regional Council.Politics of Sardinia
The Politics of Sardinia (Italy) takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democracy, whereby the President of Regional Government is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the Regional Government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Regional Council of Sardinia.Representative democracy in Singapore
Singapore has a multi-party parliamentary system of representative democracy in which the President of Singapore is the head of state and the Prime Minister of Singapore is the head of government. Executive power is vested in the President and the Cabinet. Cabinet has the general direction and control of the government and is collectively responsible to the Parliament. There are three separate branches of government: the legislature, executive and judiciary.
Representative democracy began in the 1940s when the number of elected seats in the legislature gradually increased, until a fully elected Legislative Assembly of Singapore was established in 1958. At present, Singapore legislation establishes various mechanisms that fulfil the doctrine of representative democracy. Parliamentary elections in Singapore are required to be held regularly to elect the Parliament through universal suffrage. Although the right to vote in Singapore law is not expressly mentioned in the Constitution, the Government has affirmed that the right may be implied into the constitutional text.
The Constitution vests the three branches of the state with different aspects of governmental power. The executive is made up of the President and the Cabinet, which is headed by the Prime Minister. The Cabinet is accountable to the electorate and is an embodiment of representative democracy. The President is elected by the people to act as a constitutional safeguard in protecting the national reserves and preserving the integrity of the public service. To qualify as a presidential candidate, stringent criteria must be satisfied.
The Constitution further provides for the composition of a parliament which encompasses members of parliament (MPs) elected through Single Member Constituencies and Group Representation Constituencies, Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) and Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs). MPs are representatives of the electorate and have the role of raising concerns that the people may have. The Government's view is that representative democracy is better understood as regarding political parties rather than individual MPs as the fundamental element in the political system. While the judiciary is not a direct manifestation of the concept of representative democracy, it serves as a check on the Government and the legislature by ensuring that their powers are exercised within the limits established by the Constitution, such as the fundamental liberties in Part IV.
The right to freedom of speech and expression, which is guaranteed to Singapore citizens by Article 14 of the Constitution of Singapore, is essential to the concept of representative democracy. Mechanisms available for the exercise of the right include the freedom of speech and debate in Parliament, Speakers' Corner, and the new media. However, Article 14 enables Parliament to restrict the right to free speech on various grounds. One of these is the protection of reputation. Critics have charged that Cabinet ministers and members of the ruling People's Action Party have used civil defamation suits against opposition politicians to inhibit their activities and exclude them from Parliament. The Government has said that there is no evidence substantiating such claims. In addition, both media ownership and content are carefully regulated by the Government. Article 14 protects the right to freedom of assembly which is relevant to free speech as the latter is often exercised at assemblies and gatherings. Free assembly is restricted in Singapore through laws that require permits to be obtained before events are held, though an exception is made for indoor events involving organizers and speakers who are citizens.
The Government has been accused of slowing down the progress of democracy by using the Internal Security Act (Cap. 143, 1985 Rev. Ed.) to detain political opponents and suppress political criticism. In response, the Government has asserted that no person has been detained purely for their political beliefs.Types of democracy
Types of democracy refers to kinds of governments or social structures which allow people to participate equally, either directly or indirectly.