We explain what democracy is, what are the general characteristics of this form of government and the types that exist.

What is democracy?

Democracy is a form of government in which there is popular participation and in which citizens can directly or indirectly elect and control the rulers who represent them. It is an ideal system of government recognized worldwide and constitutes one of the basic principles of the United Nations.

The word democracy comes from the Greek, "demos" means people and " kratos" means government or authority. The concept of democracy was born with the rise of Greek civilization and the growth of city states or "polis".  These democratic ideas gave rise to political institutions that try to protect the common good and the participation of citizens.

The democratic system is considered the most just and convenient form of government to live in harmony. The system encourages elections through universal suffrage for the election of rulers, and proposes a division of powers to avoid abuse of authority.

The democratic system presents variations in the model, according to the different countries of the world . It is important to clarify that a government ceases to be democratic when it exercises an autocracy , dictatorship or dominant oligarchy , despite recognizing some of the rights of the population .

Characteristics of democracy

Characteristics of democracy

Democracy is based on two key principles, which are the reason for its great popularity:

  • Individual autonomy. It refers to the fact that no one should be subject to rules that have been imposed by other people .
  • Equality. It refers to the fact that all individuals should have the same opportunity to influence decisions that affect society .

However, when these principles are put into practice some problems often arise. Democracy ends up being the "rule of the majority" and, at times, it can mean that the interests of a group of minority people are not represented by their rulers.

Democracy is characterized by the following general values and principles:

  • Equality and freedom . It corresponds to the fact that all individuals are equal before the law and are free to act in their own way, insofar as they do not act contrary to what is established in the law.
  • Representativeness. It corresponds to the right of each citizen to be represented by an authority, because it is impossible for the people to deliberate or govern directly in all daily decisions.
  • Constitutionality. It corresponds to the fundamental law. It is a legal-political statute that establishes the division of powers and its scope, guarantees the rights and freedoms of all citizens.
  • Decentralization of decisions. It corresponds to the distribution of power between several agents who agree and deliberate decisions, in a pluralistic way to avoid the abuse of authority by a single entity.
  • Human rights . They correspond to a set of principles and norms that regulate human relations in every society and that democracy guarantees for each citizen (such as participation in politics , freedom of expression and worship).
  • Political participation and pluralism. It consists of the diversity of groups of representatives with different or opposing interests, so that the process of citizen participation is democratic by having political parties that respect the different wills of the entire society.

Types of democracy

Types of democracy

There are different types of democracy. Among the main ones, the following stand out:

  • Direct or pure democracy .  It is a type of government in which citizens exercise power without any intermediary. Decisions are deliberate in public hearings.
  • Indirect or representative democracy . It is a type of government in which the representatives of the people (who were elected by all citizens by suffrage), are the ones who make the decisions .
  • Semi-direct democracy. It is a type of government that combines both the representatives elected by the people to carry out certain functions, and the people who participate directly to decide on other matters.
  • Partial democracy. Also called "non-liberal", it is a type of government in which, despite the existence of the call for elections and some basic democratic principles, the activities of the government are not known to the people.
  • Constitutional democracy. Also called "rule of law", it is a type of government that is based on a fundamental law or statute where all the laws and the rights of citizens are written , which every government must respect.
  • Parliamentary democracy. It is a type of government that differs from representative democracy because citizens yield the election by suffrage to the executive power , which is in the hands of the parliaments subordinated by a head of state or monarch.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring to reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


MA student of the TransAtlantic Masters program at UNC-Chapel Hill. Political Science with a focus on European Studies. Expressed ideas are open to revision. He not only covers Technical articles but also has skills in the fields of SEO, graphics, web development and coding. .

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