Thursday, November 17, 2011

Representative Democracy, Constitutional Democracy, and Republic

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Representative democracy, constitutional democracy, and republic are governing systems that preserve the rights of the individual citizen. Citizens vote the type and government of choice through the ballot box. Representative democracy, a form of government whose basic elements are political representation and democratic governance, is the prerogative of voters who elect representatives in a given calendar year (Lovett, 2006). It is a form of government in which the top elected brass governs until the next elections. Representative democracy allows citizens to elect representatives at all levels of society from city to the federal level. These representatives then carry on with the responsibilities accorded them by their voters until next election session when they can either reclaim their seats or be replaced by new members. A change in government representation is made possible by frequent elections and that winning a seat is determined by the number of votes garnered by a representative.

Constitutional democracy is a system of government based on popular control where structures, powers, and limits of government are set forth in a constitution and that is an amendable authoritative document. Nations like Panama, Sierra Leone, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Ghana are constitutional democracies (CIA, 2011). However, questions remain whether some countries that call themselves democracies are really democratic or just exist in name only. Some are pseudo-democracies where there is widespread corruption and manipulation in electoral processes. For governments that are partial democracies, the ruling party upholds absolute power such that it manages the constitution and denies opposition certain rights. In contemporary America, states have greater degree of control over matters pertaining to self-government and have the right to resist imposition of centralization by the federal government (Ritchie, 1936).

A republic is a form of representative democracy where elected deputies or representatives vote on acceptable legislation. In a republic, according to Roust and Shvetsova (2007), voters give consideration to representatives who they deem have the ability to reverse existing trends for the better. The United States, known for its strong democratic tradition, is a constitution-based federal republic. Nations like France, Finland, Georgia, Indonesia, Italy, South Korea, Moldova, and many others are republics. Iran is a theocratic republic; Mexico, Ethiopia, and India are federal republics while Iceland is a constitutional republic.


Lovett, F. (2006). Republicanism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Spring 2010 ed.). Retrieved from

CIA (2011). Field Listing: Government Type. Retrieved from®ionCode=M

Ritchie, A. C. (1936). The Constitution and the states. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 185(1), 16–21.

Roust, K. & Shvetlova, O. (2007). Representative Democracy as a Necessary Condition for the Survival of a Federal Constitution. The Journal of Federalism volume 37 number 2, pp. 244-261.
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