Types of Democracy explained

len Alfred Ajibola - Sat, 24th August, 2019 @ 3:23 PM

Topics in Government

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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

Types of Democracy

Types of democracy may also be referred to as 'forms of democracy'. Meanwhile, recall that democracy is considered as one of the forms of government. Basically, it focuses more on the people comprising a nation. These people whom are 18 years and above are eligible to vote and be voted for.

Please read the introduction to democracy and its concepts here.

The term 'types or forms of democracy' refers to the various ways through which democracy can exist in a state or country. In this regard, democracy can take a variety of instance depending on the nation’s geopolitical terrain, ideology or history, thus giving rise to the different types/forms of democracy.

Below are explanations on the various forms (or types) of democracy:

1. Direct Democracy

Direct democracy empowers the citizens so that they can become an active and vital part in any decision making process of the country.

For a bill to be passed into law, the vote of the people will be required in a direct democracy. They do not need any form of representatives (for instance, the lawmakers or legislature or the upper and lower houses) to vote on such bill.

In some cases, the people practicing direct democracy could raise up important issues which the government must look into. The people eventually vote on such issues, and based on the outcome, it may be passed into law.

Direct democracy is not feasible in a large society as we have in modern times.

Also, when the people are of different tribes or ethnicity, it becomes difficult to achieve.

Please read on the characteristics, functions and importance of government here.

Once upon a time, direct democracy was practiced in the ancient Greek cities of Sparta and Athens. Also, Switzerland has a good history of direct democracy. To this day, certain parts of the country (Switzerland) still practice this kind of democracy.

Ideally, direct democracy is practiced in villages or rural areas consisting of a specific tribe. It is also practiced in a small and homogenous states; that is, a state where the people share a common origin. For this reason, those involved in direct democracy will typically share the same culture and speak similar languages.

You can read on values here.

Note: Size is a limiting factor when practicing direct democracy.


2. Representative Democracy

Also called indirect democracy, representative democracy requires that the citizens elect or vote in those that will represent or govern the state on their behalf.

Indirect democracy is the most common of all democracy forms or types since it is quite impossible for everyone in a state to frequently convene at a place in order to make (or take) decisions on their state.

Representative democracy gives the people an opportunity to choose the most qualified sets of persons to represent the state. The chosen representatives are able to present the grievances and sufferings of their state and its people in a more effective and convincing manner.

Note: The representatives are normally elected to serve periodically through the voting system. For instance, they may be voted in to serve their state for four years.

Please read on gender equality here.

A representative democracy can become disadvantageous when the voted representatives fail to deliver their mandate on their state and people. In this case, they put themselves and their families first by embezzling the funds meant for the development of the state and its people.

You can read on the disadvantages of money here.

Countries like Nigeria, USA, India and France all practice indirect or representative democracy.


3. Authoritarian Democracy

In an authoritarian democracy, only the elites (educated and rich) are allowed to be voted for. Ordinary people and the masses cannot contest for electoral positions and thus, have no chance to become political leaders.

Russia and Hong Kong are sometimes considered to run an authoritarian democracy.

Please read on autocracy and other forms of government here.


4. Constitutional Democracy

A constitutional democracy utilizes the constitution in determining the right to rule.

Under this system, the constitution defines democracy and powers of the government. It also spells out how such government must operate. This is so because the rule of law which is based on the rights of the people is taken from the constitution.

By definition, a constitution is the supreme law in a country, nation or state. It specifies how the nation or state should be governed; while also attributing power to the different arms of government.

Please read more on constitution here.

We have three arms, organs or branches of government. These are:

  1. Executive

  2. Judiciary

  3. Legislature

  4. Please read more on the arms of government here.

Meanwhile, understand that constitutional democracy appropriately allocate the powers and responsibilities of the presidents, governors, senators, ministers, legislatures and other government representatives. It is practiced in the United States of America, Nigeria and Ghana.


5. Participatory Democracy

Participatory democracy presents an opportunity for each citizen of a country or state to be a part of the decision making process.

To achieve this, the governance of the state is usually broken down into small communities, thus giving a rise to grassroot politics.

Please read on the branches, scope and divisions of government here.

Participatory democracy can be quite difficult to achieve since the number of grassroot communities can become overtly large, giving rise to complexities and complications.

Participatory democracy is sometimes considered as an opposite to authoritarian democracy.


6. Islamic Democracy

The islamic law serves as the cornerstone to which Islamic democracy is laid.

This type/form of democracy has three main features. These are:

  1. The leaders are elected by the people through a voting system.
  2. Sharia law becomes a standard which the leaders as well as the followers must abide to.
  3. The leader indulges in a special form of consultation practiced by prophet Muhammad. This practice is called shura.

Countries that practice an ideal islamic democracy include Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

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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