Democracy | Definition & Types

The term democracy was derived from two Greek words, ‘demos meaning people and ‘kratia’ meaning rule of or by. Therefore, democracy means rule of people or rule by the people. Democracy originated from ancient Greek city state of Athens.

According to George B. Huszar and Thomas H. Stevenson (1968), democracy can be defined as the type of government in which the population either rules directly through popular assembly or indirectly through elected representative.

Democracy is also that sort of government in which the whole body of the population assembles for the purpose of ruling in one congregation. Dr. B.C Nwankwo (1990), defined democracy as the system of government which gives periodic opportunities for the masses to choose their leaders.

Democracy is known as the government by the elected majority of the electorates or qualified adult citizens. Finally, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of America defined democracy as the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.


The two main types of democracy are:


This is a situation or system where all the qualified adult citizens assemble or meet together at a place to take important decisions concerning them, as in Ancient Greek City State. This type of democracy was formerly practiced in the Igbo traditional societies. Also in some of the smaller New England communities in the United States, the town meeting system of government is still used. This is a situation whereby the entire voting population meets a few times a year to serve as a legislature on local issues.


Indirect or representative democracy came into use due to the growth of people and the areas to be governed. So, because of the increase in the population of people, there is the need therefore, to elect representatives who will take decisions or make policies on behalf of the whole people of the society.

Therefore, indirect or representative democracy is the type where the citizens of a state choose the representatives who would govern on their behalf and according to the wishes of the majority people in the community. Sometimes, indirect democracy was seen as synonymous o republicanism in the United States.


Some of the reasons for the development of representative democracy are:


The increase or the growth of the population of people, made it difficult and impossible for the whole qualified adult citizens of a society to assemble at one place and take bidding decisions in the society.


Due to the dictatorship of some leaders, pressures from people demand for the emergence of indirect democracy and sometimes, obliged the ruler or the leader to concede representative institutions as this helps in growth of economy and also promote social development.


The complexity of the society has made it possible for people to adopt representative or indirect democracy. This is because the growth of nation state and their populations has complicated government techniques, to such an extent that only the experts could manipulate issues.

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