Unit 1: Democracy



Term comes from Greek "demos" meanng the people, and "kratos" meaning to rule or power. Goverened by the people, where supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by elected officials under a free electoral system.

Direct Democracy

Where citizens can directly vote to make decisions eg. when the UK chose to leave the EU in the EU referendum. In Ancient Athens male citizens over 20 gathered and voted directly on major issues, elected officials were chosen on a rota system to ensure the max no. of citizens were involved. Today, direct democracy is still evident through the use of refenda (Scottish ref&Brexit) where citizens directly vote to make decisions. Direct democracy is mainly used to solve constitutional issues in the UK.


Form of direct democracy, rarely used in the UK. It puts the responsibility of decision making on the voter in what is essentially a 'yes' or 'no' choice. Since 1973 there have been 10 referenda.

Pros: provides legitimacy to a constitutional issue such as devolution (1997 Scotland), can be a check on gov., gives voters a chance to voice an opinion on major issues (Brexit), increase political participation (1998 Northern Ireland 81% turnout), provides a clear answer, can inform/educate citizens on important issues (2014 Scottish Independance)

Cons: Weakens parliamentary soverengty, frequent refenda could lead to apathy among public (AV 2011), some issues to complex for yes/no vote or for the public to understand, a low turnout can distort results and not reflect public opinion (1998 London: Greater London authority, mayor 72% yes 34% turnout), the results might not be decisive (Brexit), only gov. can call a referendum and this reflects how they think the country will vote, they are time consuming and expensive to run

Representative/Indirect Democracy

Where citizens elect people to repesent them in Parliament to make decisions on their behalf. Britain is an example: people don't directly vote for policy, but instead for a rep in Parliament, giving authority/legitimacy to the reps to vote on important bills/legislation. Lincoln sums up democracy: democracy is the government of the…


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