Democracy Definition, Kinds, Merits and Demerits

The word democracy means the rule of people and as a form of government; it is the rule of majority. It shows that democracy is a kind of government, which is run according to the wishes of people. In real democracy, people are the source of all political powers.


Democracy has been defined by many eminent scholars and political scientists. In them, the most accurate definition is, “Government of the people, for the people, and by the people”.
The above definition gives the three features of the democracy: political equality, government responsible to the popular will, and the last one is majority rule. These are briefly discussed.

The political equality means that each citizen has an equal opportunity to influence government policy. A responsible government refers to an arrangement whereby citizen can enforce their demands upon officials. Majority rule refers to basing of government decisions upon agreement by the majority of citizens, express either by popular vote or though their representatives.

Kinds of Democracy

Direct Democracy

Direct Democracy is also known as pure form of democracy. It is the perfect expression of popular sovereignty. It shows that direct democracy is a form of government in which people take part directly in public and state affairs. In ancient Greek city-states and still in Switzerland people directly take part in state affairs as to make laws, decide government policy, and to elect government officials. This kind of democracy demands the following conditions:
  •     The number of citizens must be small.
  •    Property and wealth must be distributed equally.
  •    The society must culturally be homogenous.
  •    Those who administer the laws must not be allowed to function independently of the popular will that makes laws in the first place.
All these conditions seem to be unusual and impossible in present society; therefore, it is difficult and impossible for modern large territorial states to follow direct democracy.

Indirect Democracy

It is also known as representative democracy. When people exercise their sovereign power and take part in state affairs through their representatives by electing them, the government is called “Indirect or Representative democracy”. This system evolved in Western Europe through the concept of universal suffrage or franchise. For this purpose, elections are held periodically, people elect their representatives.

For a fixed term, and during their stay in office, they try to reflect the will of the people in formulation of state’s policies. This type of democracy is very popular in modern times and almost, all the democratic states have adopted Indirect or Representative Democracy. Both kinds of democracies need certain conditions for operation and success.

Conditions for success of democracy

Democracy is, indeed, the best form of government but it requires certain conditions for its smooth working and success. Democracy cannot function where people are undisciplined and they do not respect rules and regulations: when they are very depressed and passive because democracy requires active participation of all the people in the state’s affairs.
  •     Democracy requires homogenous society. It cannot work where sectional and patriarchal interests are stronger than that of national interests. Where the controlling authority is ignorant and incapable, the democracy cannot work because it requires efficient, capable, intelligent people for administrative purpose.
  •   Democracy cannot work in a state where desire to rule others, is stronger than desire for sense of liberty. Democracy requires the real sense of liberty for all the citizens of the state.
Beside all the conditions, the biggest is education, which enlightens citizens to elect the best government for them, and they are fully aware of their rights and duties. These conditions provide certain merits, demerits of democracy.


Welfare of the people:
Democracy works for welfare of the people because it enables the people to stand up for their rights and interests and to work for the welfare of entire community.

The soul of democracy is election, which bases on the concept of one-man one vote. This makes all citizens politically equal; therefore, in democracy everyone is fit to take part in state’s affairs. Similarly, democracy provides equal chance of self-development and happiness.

Efficient Government:
In democracy, people elect their representatives for the state’s government. This elective power of the people is known as popular control and this control makes the government responsible to the people. In this way, people elect efficient and responsible persons for government of the state. This ensures the greatest degree of the efficient government. The government always confirms wishes and opinions of the people. It means democracy provides efficient government and best laws for people of any state.

Educative Value:
Democracy puts emphasis on education because it develops the intellectual and spiritual qualities of man. Education enables people to learn patriotism, rights, and duties and to build civil sense. Therefore, social democrats give the greatest importance to education. They consider education the only element, which helps in the survival of democracy in any state. Besides these, democracy makes citizen to take part in elections, public discussions, and decision-making processes, which make people intelligent and politically conscious about their state and the world.


Democracy provides that peoples are sovereign but actually popular elections are run by the property owners, big merchants, and clever politicians, therefore, in practice they become sovereign instead of common person.
In democracy, citizens look to quantity of votes and not the quality of man to be elected for government. Similarly, citizens elect their representatives on territorial basis rather than professional or caliber sense.
Democracy is a game of clever and corrupt people who know how to catch votes by emotional appeals and tricks, so, it is government of many ignorant than few intelligent.

Modern democracies are capitalistic and imperialistic in nature because only rich people can contest elections and always dominate political parties. The democracy of Pakistan and United States’ is the best example of this kind.
Democratic government is less stable than any other government. The self-centered politicians and opposition always create crisis and obstacles in the smooth functioning of government. Similarly, democracy is always weak in wars and emergencies because it takes   long time to decide important measures.