What is democracy and difference between direct and indirect democracy

In this article, we will discuss the following topics;


1. What is democracy?
2. Features of democracy.
3. Difference between direct and indirect democracy.
4. Why India adopted indirect democracy?
5. How Indian parliamentary system of democracy is different from Britisher’s system?


What is Democracy?

“Democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people” Abraham Lincoln.

Democracy can be defined, as a system of governance where people are allowed to choose their ruler either by direct means or indirect means, that depends on the types of democracy that prevailed in that country.

India is the largest democracy in the world and aspires to become the greatest democracy in the world.

Features of democracy:

People enjoy basic political freedom like justice, equality, and opportunity

The ruler is elected by the people through the election at regular intervals

People have fundamental rights in which the state cannot violet the constitutional freedoms given to the individuals.

Universal adult franchise or universal suffrage exists, which means one person has one vote and one value.

Free and fair elections provide the platform to choose the ruler in a free and fair manner.

Rule of law prevails, it means that everybody has an equal right to assess justice and the law shall prevail.


Let’s Debate on whether democracy is good or bad?

Some points in support of democracy are;

1. It provides an accountable form of government where people have the power to choose their ruler.

2. In democracy; discussion, debate and decent prevails which improve the quality of decision making.

3. Democracy accommodates differences and provides a method to deal with different circumstances.

4. Democracy provides basic rights like human rights and natural rights to its people.

5. People can change their government through election it means that they have the opportunity to correct their own mistakes.

Some points against democracy are;

1. Ordinary people like low-literate people don’t know what is good or bad for them they just vote for sake of votes.

2. In a democracy most of the decisions get delayed because it requires a wide range of deliberation, discussions which lead to delay in decisions.

3. Another problem is that leaders keep changing which leads to instability in politics that creates policy paralysis.

4. In some democracies the competition between political parties and power-seeking through the use of muscle power and money power.

5. Personal interest subjugate the people’s interest in a democracy which leads to corruption.


Once a leader Said that;
“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” – Abraham Lincoln


Difference between direct and indirect democracy:

Now, Let’s discuss about the types of democracy. There are two types of democracy, these are;

1. Direct democracy also called pure democracy

2. Indirect democracy or representative democracy

In a direct democracy, the decisions are directly taken by the people themselves. Whereas, in indirect democracy, the decisions are taken by the elected representatives of the people. Let us understand the basic difference between direct democracy and indirect democracy.


1. Direct democracy or pure democracy:

In a direct democracy, the decisions are taken by the people themselves for this purpose referendum, Plebiscite, initiative, and right to recall are used. Let us understand these terminologies;

1. Referendum: Referendum is conducted to directly take the opinion of people on any issue.  Government brings a referendum on some issues which are mostly internal in nature like a ban on alcohol.

Recently the British government had conducted a referendum to seek the opinion of their people for exit from the European Union and the people of Britain voted in favour of that. It’s was a very popular event and known as BREXIT. We can understand that the people of Britain directly took the decision instead of their elected representatives, hence this particular exercise was a type of direct democracy.

2. Plebiscite: Plebiscite is also conducted to directly take the opinion of people for land or territorial dispute issues only.

3. Initiative: Through the initiative, the people present a bill on any matter and want to make it a law. 

4. Right to recall: Through the right to recall the voters have the power to remove their representative if they are not satisfied with their work within the stipulated time.


2. Indirect democracy or representative democracy:

In an indirect democracy, the decisions are made by the elected representatives of the people. The indirect democracy is further divided into two types, these are the following;

  • Parliamentary System
  • Presidential System

1. Parliamentary System:

In a parliamentary system, the people elect their representatives. Those elected representatives can make laws and those elected representatives can elect the head of the government directly or indirectly like Prime Minister or president. 

Here we need to understand that people’s power is limited to electing their representatives only. The head of the government can be elected/selected by the elected representatives only. And the laws will also be made by the elected representatives only.

2. Presidential System:

In this type of democracy people, directly elect the president who is head of the government and the President is powered over any matter.

In a direct democracy people or citizens directly take participation in the decision-making process but in indirect democracy people elect their representatives and they represent the view and will of the people.

Policy in direct democracy is decided by the people themselves but in indirect democracy, the elected one takes the decision on government policy for their people.

One thing should be noted that direct democracy is good for those countries where the population is low but indirect democracy is good in those countries where the population is high.


The key differences between direct democracy and indirect democracy are;

In an indirect democracy, people directly participate in the formulation of law and law-making policy but in direct democracy, people enjoy the benefit of law, and policies are made by their representatives.

In a direct democracy, the legislation is the representation of the whole community, but in the indirect democracy, the winning party has the power to pass it and participate in the legislation.

Another difference is that in direct democracy there are various ways to achieve direct democracy like;

  • Plebiscite
  • Referendum 
  • Initiative 
  • Recall

However, there are only two ways to achieve indirect democracy, that is the parliamentary form of Government and the presidential form of government.

From the suitability point of view, direct democracy can be good for the small countries with a small population but for the bigger countries like India which have huge populations, indirect democracy is more suitable.


Why India adopted indirect democracy?

India chose indirect democracy to fulfill the Gandhi Ji views, mentioned below;

“I understand democracy as something that gives the weak the same chance as the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi

1. We were infant democracy want to create harmony between legislature and executive.

2. It provides responsible government and prevents nepotism.

3. Representation from every section of society is an important feature.

4. Collective responsibility of the members is also important with respect to Indian circumstances.

5. Familiar with the indirect democracy system because Britishers were ruling India at the time of colonialism. And they were practicing indirect democracy for a very long time.

6. Due to the huge diversity in India it could have been problematic if people represent their views individually which could lead to confusion.

One difference we should understand that Indian and British types of model are different but both are democratic in nature. Here are some of the differences between the British and Indian models of democracy.


How Indian parliamentary system of democracy is different from Britisher’s system?

In India head of state is the president who is elected but in Britain head of the state is King or queen which is monarchical in nature.

The other difference is that British Parliament is sovereign and supreme but in India, the Indian Parliament is not sovereign because we have a written constitution, the federal system, fundamental rights, and judicial reviews, which can restrict our parliament in some areas of law.

In Britain, ministers have legal responsibility but in India, ministers have no legal responsibility but a moral responsibility.

In Britain usually, the Prime Minister must be a member of the lower house or house of commons of the Parliament but in India, the Prime Minister can be a member of the either lower house or the Upper house. A non-member of parliament can also become prime minister with certain conditions.

India is a model which represents a democracy with great consistency in the world.

Most of the third world countries failed to uphold democracy but India sustains it because it always stands for human welfare as well as the welfare of the world.

“Democracy is a faith in the spiritual possibilities of not a privileged few but of every human being.” – Dr. S Radhakrishnan


This article is written by;

Mr. Pankaj Kumar Gupta

(Email ID: [email protected])