Democracy plainly can be defined as the representative government. In other words, it means government by the people’s representatives. The citizenry choose those to represent them and their interest in government.
Another school of thought see democracy as government of the majority with the interest of the minority protected. This is to say that the group or party with the majority of votes form government but the interest of the minority is guaranteed by the constitution.
To have a better understanding for the true meaning of democracy, it is important to know the how the modern democracy came about. The way democracy is today has serious import from the Greeks and the Romans. For example, the Athenians had three arms of government. They were Assembly of Demos, Council of 500 and people’s Court. While the Assembly and the Council of 500 legislate, the People’s Court was the judicial arm of government. The Romans had the senate who perform legislative duties.
Much modern influences of present day democracy are the “Magna Carta” of 1215 that gave liberty and political rights to the English people and the America constitution upon independent. This constitution had entrenched in it the doctrines of separation of power, civic rights and separation of government from the church.
When compared to other forms of governments like military, monarchy, oligarchy, feudalism etc. Democracy is more inclusive and representative in nature. It has the capacity to accommodate all interests and opinions of members of the society. This is why it is the most popular form of government.
It has been argued in some quarters that democracy is the most expensive form of government and as such not suitable for poor nations. This school of thought is premised on the fact that it is expensive to conduct elections; expensive to pay political office holders like legislators and political appointees; and expensive to run government in generally. As cogent as this argument might seems, the prevalent facts before us today shows that states that are not practicing democracy like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba to mention but a few are repressive in nature. They manipulate and use so much propaganda to oppress their citizens.
Others believe that frequent elections, actually give room for populist issues and not enduring issues. Politicians tend to play safe, focusing on policies that are popular enough to attain power but not substantive for an enduring development of the society. A good example of this is the issue of taxes and immigration. Politicians seek the easier options out just to win election even when on the long run it will not be good for the society. They engage in so much propaganda (deliberate falsehood) to convince and confuse the electorates for votes. Economic issues are politicalized for political gains.
However, recent events has also shown that the more a state oppress or use repressive means to deny their citizens access to power, freedom and good governance. It is only for a while. The Arab spring that swept across states like Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and most recently Burkina Faso are clear examples of how people desire democracy. They want to be part of the government that govern them. So many have had to pay sacrificially to attain democracy. Others fought civil war just to ensure that democratic government is entrenched in their society and constitution.
There are two major types of democracy. They are direct democracy and representative democracy. While direct democracy is where the citizens of the state govern themselves directly. They would come out and legislate about the affairs that concern their welfare. This was the type practiced in ancient Greek city of Athens.
However, the act of governance is more technical and time consuming this days. Thus, the need for full time and knowledgeable individuals to be elected to represent their constituencies in government. So the second type of democracy is representative or indirect democracy.
Representative democracy have several types such as Authoritarian, Demarchy, Totalitarian, Non-partisan, Council or Soviet, Westminster, Jacksonisan, Electoral, Parliamentary and Dominant-party representative democracies. These models of representative democracies are practice or were practice in different states as it suits the particular nation state at the time.
Which type of government is best is not really the model that is being followed, but the people who are implementing the model.For example a nation might be democratic, but if the leaders are using stealth oppressive methods to rule and manipulate the country, than it is no better than an directly oppressive government. Simlarly a country under military rule might be better, if the military leaders are righteous people and work for the welfare of people, then there is no issues about that as well.