A representative democracy is a system where citizens of a country vote for government representatives to handle legislation and ruling the country on their behalf. It is the opposite of direct democracy, where the public gets to vote on laws to be passed and other issues; and autocracy, where a dictator has absolute power and the people have no say in how a country is governed.

How Does a Representative Democracy Work?

The U.S., Britain and India are all examples of representative democracies (and many other countries worldwide follow this model.) Most representative democracies have multi-party elections. The power representatives have in a liberal representative democracy needs to be balanced, which is why most of them have some form of measure in place:

  • A constitution, which specifies how much power representatives may claim
  • An independent judiciary, such as a supreme court or constitutional court, with the authority to declare something the representative government decides on to be unconstitutional.
  • An “upper house” such as the British House of Lords or the Canadian Senate.