What is democracy?


Quick Answer

Democracy is a system of government based on the principle that the state's power is vested in the people and may be used by the people or their elected officials under a system of free elections. In theory, democracies may be either direct or representative.

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Full Answer

In a direct democracy, any an all citizens may act directly to enact public policy without the intermediary step of an elected official. In practice, this is only practical when applied to smaller groups of people. A working group, for example, may be based on this type of direct democracy.

In a representative democracy, the will of the people is to be enacted by elected officials. Free elections, the involvement of the public in all aspects of civic life, upholding human rights and the equal application of law to all citizens are cornerstones of democratic societies.

Democracy, being based on elections, is based on the notion of majority rules. What the majority of citizens vote for should be enacted. Majority rules, however, should never mean that the minority is oppressed and so most democratic states also have a constitution which enshrines the rights of all citizens, including minorities. These are called constitutional democracies, and include most of the democratic countries in the modern world.

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