Meaning of Representative Democracy

What is representative democracy:

Representative democracy, also known as indirect democracy, is a form of government where citizens exercise political power through their representatives, elected by suffrage, in free and periodic elections.

In theory, the holder of political power is the sovereign, that is, the people, but they do not exercise it themselves. In this sense, indirect democracy arises due to the difficulties involved in the effective performance of each and every one of the citizens of nations of millions of people as a political actor before the State, so that the figure of representativeness is created.

That is why representative democracy uses citizen participation mechanisms such as voting to invest legitimacy in the elected representatives so that they act and make decisions on behalf of their constituents.

As such, representative democracy is the political system most widely accepted and used by the world’s democracies and is, furthermore, the characteristic system of liberal nations.

Characteristics of representative democracy

One of the basic characteristics of this type of government is the representativeness. This must be submitted to the decision of the majorities, activated by democratic mechanisms to choose, among a series of candidates, those citizens who will represent the people before the different instances of the State. In this sense, there is a civil and social responsibility to exercise the right to vote for the representative system to work.

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Representativeness is reflected especially at the executive level, in the presidencies, governorships, and mayors’ offices, and at the legislative level, in congresses, chambers, or assemblies.

Another characteristic of representative democracy is the existence of political parties made up of citizens who represent the interests and ideologies of specific sectors of the population. Political parties are legal organizations and therefore their candidates acquire the benefits of formal organizations and legal royalties against independent candidates, for example.

Like any democracy, it is characterized by its democratic values, by guaranteeing citizen rights and well-being, and by being governed by constitutional principles and democratic models.

See also: The 7 basic characteristics of any democracy.

Examples of representative democracy

Representative democracy can be combined with other forms of government, generally republican, which is based on the division, balance and mutual control of powers, to guarantee individual freedoms.

In addition, a representative democracy can also present a federal or centralist system. The federal system of political organization of the State, is made up of entities or political, associated and subordinate states under a federal government scheme but with a certain level of autonomy in relation to its government and legislation.

On the other hand, the centralist system does not grant this independence in decision-making to other entities. Representative, republican and federal democracies are, for example, those of countries like Mexico or Argentina in Latin America. Representative, republican and centralist democracies are, for example, those of countries like Chile and Brazil in Latin America.

See also Republic.

Representative and participatory democracy

Representative or indirect democracy differs from participatory or direct democracy by its participatory mechanisms.

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Voting is the participation mechanism par excellence of representative democracy. On the other hand, referendums and plebiscites are ways of exercising direct democracy. Both representative democracy and participatory democracy share democratic values.

See also participatory democracy.

semi-representative democracy

A semi-representative or mixed democracy is known as one that mixes characteristics of both representative and participatory democracies.

In this way, the people elect their representatives through suffrage, freely and periodically, and also have the possibility of actively participating in political affairs, decision-making and solving problems of public interest, through the activation of constitutional participation mechanisms such as popular initiatives, referendums or plebiscites.

An example of semi-representative democracy is the Oriental Republic of Uruguay.

See also Values ​​of democracy.