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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The following is a partial list of the varieties of democracy.


Direct democracy

Direct democracy, classically termed pure democracy,[1] [2] [3] is any form of government based on a theory of civics in which all citizens can directly participate in the decision-making process. Some adherents want legislative, judicial, and executive powers to be handled by the people, but most extant systems only allow legislative decisions.

A large number of citizens places greater difficulties on the implementation of a direct democracy, where representation is not practiced and thus all citizens must be actively involved on all issues all of the time. This increases the need for representative democracy, as the number of citizens grows. Historically, the most direct democracies would include the New England town meeting, the political system of the ancient Greek city states and oligarchy of Venice. There are concerns about how such systems would scale to larger populations; in this regard there are a number of experiments being conducted all over the world to increase the direct participation of citizens in what is now a representative system:

With the advent of the Internet, there have been suggestions for e-democracy, which comprises various mechanisms for implementing direct democracy concepts.

Semi-direct democracy

Direct and indirect democracies can be of referendums held in some states of the United States are referred to as "ballot measures" or "propositions."

Some modern representative democracies very heavily rely upon forms of political action that are directly democratic. Examples include Switzerland and some U.S. states, where frequent use is made of referendums and initiatives. Although managed by a representative legislative body, Switzerland allows for initiatives and referenda at both the local and federal levels. In the past 120 years more than 240 initiatives have been put to referendum. The populace has been conservative, approving only about 10% of the initiatives put before them; in addition, they have often opted for a version of the initiative rewritten by government.[citation needed]

Another distinctive example comes from the United States, where, despite being a federal republic where no direct democracy exists at the federal level, over half the states (and many localities) provide for citizen-sponsored ballot initiatives (also called "ballot measures", "ballot questions" or "propositions") and the vast majority of the states allow for referendums.

One form of semi-direct democracy is deliberative democracy, which combines elements of both representative democracy and direct democracy and relies upon the deliberation of the citizenry to make sound policy. Another form is sortition, in which people's representatives are not elected but randomly drafted among the population.

Indirect democracy

Indirect democracy is a broad term describing a means of governance by the people through elected representatives. The most common system found in today's democratic states is the representative democracy. The people elect government officials who then make decisions on their behalf. Essentially, a representative democracy is a form of indirect democracy in which representatives are democratically selected, and usually difficult to recall.

A doctrine often known as Edmund Burke's Principle states that representatives should act upon their own conscience in the affairs of a representative democracy. This is contrasted to the expectation that such representatives should consider the views of their electors—an expectation particularly common in states with strong constituency links, or with recall provisions (such as modern British Columbia).

One form of indirect democracy is parliamentary democracy, where the government is appointed by parliamentary representatives as opposed to a 'presidential rule' by decree dictatorship. Under a parliamentary democracy, government is exercised by delegation to an executive ministry and subject to ongoing review, checks and balances by the legislative parliament elected by the people.

See also


  1. ^ Democracy in World Book Encyclopedia, World Book Inc., 2006.
  2. ^ Pure democracy entry in Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  3. ^ Pure democracy entry in American Heritage Dictionary.


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