Democracy - Characteristics of Democracy

len Alfred Ajibola - Thu, 22nd August, 2019 @ 11:38 AM

Topics in Government

Arms of Government: Functions of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary Scheme of Work for Government, SS1, First Term Scheme of Work for Government, SS1, Second Term Scheme of Work for Government, SS1, Third Term Concept, Advantages and Disadvantages of Multi-Party System Concept, Advantages and Disadvantages of Two-Party System Pressure Group: Types of Pressure Group Characteristics of Pressure Group Constitution - Types of Constitution Government - Scope of Government Government - Characteristics of Government Government - Importance of Government One-Party System explained Multi-Party System explained with its Characteristics Party System: Zero Party System Two-Party System explained with its Characteristics Democracy and Types of Democracy Democracy - Characteristics of Democracy Government - Types and Forms of Government Government - Functions of Government

Academic Questions in Government

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A type of democracy whereby shura is practiced is termed _____ democracy

  • A. Direct

  • B. Indirect

  • C. Constitutional

  • D. Islamic

  • E. Authoritarian

  • F. Participatory

A type of democracy whereby the people vote a bill into law is termed _____ democracy

  • A. Direct

  • B. Indirect

  • C. Constitutional

  • D. Islamic

  • E. Authoritarian

  • F. Participatory

In democracy, every citizen has got the right to vote and be vote for. Also, the principle one man one vote in this regard refers to which characteristic of democracy?

  • A. Separation of power

  • B. Freedom of expression

  • C. Constitutional supremacy

  • D. Rule of Law

  • E. Political equality

  • F. Popular sovereignty

Democracy is defined as a government formed by the consent of the governed.

  • A. True

  • B. False

Which of the following is not a type of democracy?

  • A. Peripheral democracy

  • B. Direct democracy

  • C. Islamic democracy

  • D. Representative democracy

  • E. Participatory democracy

  • F. Authoritarian democracy

Which of the following is not a characteristics of democracy?

  • A. Kingdom supracy

  • B. Rule of law

  • C. Political equality

  • D. Separation of power

  • E. Freedom of expression

  • F. Popular sovereignty

The following are functions of government except _____.

  • A. To provide free money for her citizens

  • B. To make laws as contained in the constitution

  • C. To defend and protect the lives and properties of her citizens

  • D. To provide a justice system

  • E. To generate revenue for the country

  • F. To maintain law and order through the law enforcement agencies

Government may be defined as an agency or machinery or instrument that is established to manage the general welfare of the people that make up a country.

In the above statement, government is defined _____.

  • A. As a process

  • B. As an act of governing

  • C. As an institution of a state

  • D. As an academic field o study

  • E. As a political wheel

  • F. As a machine of movement



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Characteristics of Democracy:

The popular term democracy originated from the fusion of two Greek words. These are 'demos' which means people and 'kratia' meaning government or rule.

According to Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest American presidents of all time (the 16th American president), he expressed democracy in words that have become its popular definition to this day:

Government of the people, by the people and for the people

Abraham Lincoln

Please read on the types of democracy here.

Note: Democracy is one of the forms of government and it allows the people to choose their leaders.

If the democratically elected leaders are failing in their responsibility, democracy also permits that such leaders can be rejected by the people. This is true because the power to choose and reject the leaders is vested on the people in a democratized society.

With the popular notion that the power to choose various leaders and those vying for political offices are vested in the hands of the people, democracy has shown the following characteristics as explained below:


  • Constitutional Supremacy

A constitution is the highest or supreme law in a country, nation or state and it specifies how such nation or state should be governed. In democracy, the constitution rise above everyone no matter their status or rank.

Please read more on constitution here.

It is the supremacy of the constitution that permits for the removal of a democratically elected official. Such official (even if he or she is the president of a nation) may be made to face trial at a law court if certain sections of the constitution had been violated.

Supremacy of the constitution is a very important feature of democracy because it gives rise to the popular phrase: 'No one is above the law'.

Note: Where there is the presence of massive corruption is a country, constitutional supremacy can become ineffective or dysfunctional.

Please read on gender equality and ways to achieve it here.


  • Rule of the majority

You may have heard of the popular saying:

The voice of the people is the voice of God.

This saying may have emanated from democracy since the voice or vote of majority of the people determines their leaders.

The process of a free and fair election is the most important tool in which democracy utilizes in determining the rule of the majority. This implies that majority of the people will determine the political positions of electoral candidates (for instance; the presidential candidates) through their vote.

It is noteworthy to state that without the vote of a majority of the people, one cannot be a politically elected officer in a democratized society.


  • Freedom of Expression

This is one of the fundamental human rights and democracy permits for its realization.

The freedom of expression empowers the media and the general public to report any activity of the government.

Through the internet, we have seen how policemen and soldiers shot at peaceful protesting citizens at a pointblank range without any form of trial and conviction.

However, such unconstitutional act was brought to light through the social media; and all thanks to democracy.

Note: The absence of democracy may result to a ban on mass media from reporting issues (especially the negatives of the incumbent government); be it on the radio, television or the internet at large. This is what actually happens in a military or dictatorship form of government.

Please read on the forms of government here.


  • Political Equality

In democracy, every citizen has the right to vote and be voted for. Also, there is the principle of one man, one vote to further express political equality.

Note: If one thinks he or she has what it takes to bring about a positive change in the society (at a political level); they can register with a political party, or form a new political party; and such person(s) will be voted into power in a free and fair election if the majority of the people entrust him or her with their vote.

We should not disenfranchise ourselves by not utilizing either or both of our democratic rights; that is, right to vote and be voted for.


  • Separation of Power

Separation of power is an important characteristic in a democratic state. This imply that one arm of government must be on oversight by another arm who checks their excesses.

As an instance, the executive arm of government (comprising of the president, vice presidents, and ministers amongst others) must be checked by the legislative and judiciary arms of governments. To this end, the president can even be impeached by the upper and lower houses (legislators) if he or she is found guilty of breaking some important rule of law.

The arms or branches of government are:

  1. Executive

  2. Legislator

  3. Judiciary

  4. Please read on the arms of government here.


  • Popular Sovereignty

One of the meanings of the word sovereignty is 'to be in control'.

Popular sovereignty in democracy imply that the vote of the people have absolute control over any government decision.

Always note that the main goal of democracy is to invest the power to govern or choose who governs on the people. For this reason, the vote of the majority is considered to be popular and sovereign.

You may also read on the sovereignty of God here.


  • Multi Party System

In a democratic system, political parties are established and they house the political aspirants.

Ideally, we should have two or more political parties so that the people can optimally vote for their preferred candidates through their respective parties.

Please read on multi-party system here

Oftentimes, we seem to have a strong opposition party to the ruling party; and that’s a good thing for democracy. In fact, it would even be better if we can have more than two strong opposition parties in a political system.

In Nigeria, the 'All Progressive Congress' (APC) and 'Peoples Democratic Party' (PDP) are the two major opposition parties as at 2019.

United States of America have got the Democratic Party and the Republicans as the two strongest opposition parties. Apart from these two, three other thriving parties are the:

  1. Libertarian Party
  2. Green Party
  3. Constitution Party


  • Human Rights

Each citizen of a nation is entitled to his or her fundamental human rights. These rights are often spelt out in the constitution of a nation.

Note: An important feature of democracy is the respect for these rights.

Some of the fundamental human rights of every citizen include:

  • Right to life
  • Right to movement
  • Right to freedom of speech
  • Right to religion
  • Right to property and so on.

Please read on all your fundamental human rights here.


  • Rule of Law

In democracy, the law of the land must rule above everyone, even the president of the country. To this end, no one is above the rule of law in a democratic society.

This rule of law is supreme. For this reason, it gives rise to equality, equity and justice which are often visible in a democratized society.

You can read on the attributes of citizens and residents here.

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Alfred Ajibola is a Medical Biochemist, a passionate Academician with over 7 years of experience, a Versatile Writer, a Web Developer, a Cisco Certified Network Associate and a Cisco CyberOps Associate.

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Amazing facts in Government

Abraham Lincoln, the great human emancipator, freedom fighter and 16th American president was popular for the saying:

Government of the people, by the people and for the people

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America was a professional wrestler before he assumed the office of the American President. Interesting, he was only defeated once in his wrestling career


The organs of government (also referred to as arms of government or branches of government) are:

  1. Executive

  2. Legislature

  3. Judiciary

These three arms of government serves as a separation of power.

Separation of Power implies that they carry out their distinct (separate) functions and responsibilities in accordance to the nation's constitution.

The president (who is number one citizen of a country and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces) is the head of the executive arm of government. It is the responsibility of the executive to enforce or execute the law.


The legislature is a group of elected persons who are required to make law.

In Nigeria, the legislature consist of the bicameral national assembly which are:

  1. The upper house or chamber (Senate)

  2. The lower house or chamber (House of Representative)


The judiciary is an independent arm of government whose power is enforced in the courts.

Like the executive and legislature, they function under the guidance of the constitution.

Please read more on the organs of government here

Below are some functions of the executive arm of government:

  1. They ensure the security of the citizens in a country.

  2. The executive cannot pass laws into the constitution. Instead, they can forward bills to the legislature (or parliament) which will deliberate upon it. (Think of 'bill' as a proposal to be made into law; which will be submitted to the parliament in the form of a draft act).

  3. It is the president's responsibility to provide quality healthcare system, education, good roads (transport system), power, labour and finance through his ministers. For instance, the minister of agriculture oversees the affairs of agriculture in a nation. The ministers may also be accountable to the national assembly with regards to how they go about their ministries.

  4. They bring about maintenance of law and order in a country through the National Security Agencies (NSA) like the police, army, navy and air force.

  5. They prepare and execute the nation’s budget.

  6. The president approves the law into the constitution.

Plesse read more on the functions of executive, legislative and judiciary arms of government here

No one is above the constitution, even the president or prime minister.

  • The constitution is the supreme law in a country, nation or state.

  • The constitution specifies how the nation or state should be governed.

  • The constitution gives power to the different organs of government; (that is,  the executive, judiciary and legislature).

  • The constitution consists of all the fundamental human rights of the people.

Juxtaposing the above points, below is a definition for the term constitution:

Constitution is a supreme law that specifies the government of a nation, the distribution of powers to the different organs of government within that nation and the fundamental rights of all her citizens.

Please read more on the constitution here

Below are some qualities or characteristics of a constitution:

  • It is neither too rigid nor too flexible.

  • It accounts for the rule of law, de-centralization of power, an independent Judiciary system and processes of election transparency.

  • It accounts for the fundament human rights of the people.

  • It allocates power to the different arms of government.

  • It must uphold the people’s sovereignty.

  • It is written systematically.

You can read on the types of constitution here.

Dictatorship is one of the forms of government. It can exist either as:

  1. Military Dictatorship
  2. Civilian Dictatorship

In 1966, Major General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi became the first military Head of State in Nigeria after he overthrew a democratic and constitutional government (headed by the prime minister; Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa)

The above instance is a military form of dictatorship.

A typical example of a civilian dictatorship is Adolf Hitler of Germany and Joseph Stalin of Russia and Georgia

You can read more on dictatorship here