Difference Between Direct and Representative Democracy Research paper

Difference Between Direct and Representative Democracy

Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practise it is a fallacy (Benito Mussolini). Do you agree with the quote?  A democracy is a form of government where power lies with the people being governed, true to its definition, however, practically it is a paradox, specifically in African governments.  Scholars agree that a democracy is based on the nature of the representative government.  Democracy is not a rule of individuals but a rule of law, even though by definition, power in a democracy is held by  the people.

Over the millennia society’s  have practised some form of democracy or another.  Democracy has evolved due to changing times. The two broad categories recognised in the world today are direct and representative democracies.

Basics of a democracy

  • Voting equally
  • Efficient participation
  • Broad minded understanding
  • Citizens power to control the agenda
  • Inclusivity(open to all citizens)

Direct Democracy

Also known as “pure democracy” this democracy places power in the hands of an individual.  Policies established by the government are determined by the people themselves. Each person is treated equally and given a chance in policy making. Practically this is effective in small political communities.  In a huge democratic space like the US, thousands of laws are invalidated by the day. This type of democracy cannot work there.

Switzerland and Athens are example of direct democracy. In Greece, Athens they go a step further and vote on the outcome of court cases.

Representative Democracy

This system of government is where all eligible citizens vote on the representatives they want . The representatives are the ones who pass laws on behalf of the citizens.  Effectiveness of this type of democracy is brought about three crucial factors.

Genuine Competition  Selection of the leadership should be without rigging. Voters should have confidence in that the process was not flawed and that their choice of leader has won fairly.

Free Communication  Open and timely communication among the people will go a long way in portraying confidence and truth.

Voters need to have a meaningful choice  A choice between the candidates and the difference in policy.

The US, Great Britain and India are some of the representative democracy we have in the world.

Systems of Democracy

The two broad categories can further be divided into two sub components. Presidential system and parliamentary system. The factors that distinguish the two is the electoral procedure, distribution of power between the executive and parliament and aspect of political parties.

Parliamentary System Power to execute and make laws is held by parliament. This electoral process influences the power between the executive and legislature.

Presidential System  This type of democracies are few in the world. Power in this type of system is concentrated in the executive branch. The presidential veto is controversial as the president has the right to overturn or veto  the law.

Comparison between Direct and Representative Democracy

Direct Representative
Policy determinant General public Elected representative
Succession rule Neither heritance nor elective Elective
Use of constitution in policy execution Sometimes used Used all the time
Legislature size Large Not so large


A democracy is laid out with checks and balances to minimise political abuse of power. The ability to influence laws through representatives gives power to the citizens. This sense of freedom brings in significant cultural importance. Higher morale and motivation will arise from this.The balance of power helps to ensure the will of the people is acted upon not the will of a small group of political leaders who want things done for selfish gains. Democracy goes ahead to establish human rights and establishes rules governing it. According to Winston Churchill “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others”. Governments should not live true to this.

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