Difference Between Democracy and Republic

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023

       

Difference Between Democracy and Republic

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Introduction

Perhaps the best definition of democracy is Aristotle’s (voting by lot is the nature of democracy). In a republic, voting is based on personal choice. Democracy allows people to hold all the power – rule of the people. However, a republic allow people to elect representatives who fulfill their wishes. A democracy is criticized due to the subdued or non-existent power of the minority of people, whereas a republic is criticized as critics think instead of nobles, the rich rule now. Most countries nowadays are democratic republics – a combination of democracy and republic.

In a democracy, only the will of the majority of people is considered. To prevent the minority from losing their fundamental rights, the concepts of supermajority and consensus emerged. A supermajority is a requirement by which two-thirds of the people have to support an act or amendment instead of the more than one-half rule. A consensus is a decision-making structure that considers the will of the minority, too.

Democracy Vs. Republic

Democracy is a form of government where the will of the majority of the public becomes law. The opinions of the minority are not taken into account. Republic is a system of government where the public elects its representatives. In a republic, certain inalienable (cannot be taken or given away) rights of the minority are protected (the minority will not be forced to relinquish their rights merely because the majority wishes it).

Difference Between Democracy And Republic In Tabular Form

Parameters Of Comparison Democracy Republic
Power The people (the majority of them) have the power to amend laws and choose who governs them. The power of the government is limited compared to the public. The government has more power, as the people elect representatives. Only the elected government can make amends to constitutions; it does not matter if the majority of the people are against the amendment.
Protection Of Minority Representative democracy is similar to a republic; however, it has no written constitution that protects the rights of the minority. A republic has a written constitution that ensures that the will and opinions of the majority do not take away the minority’s basic rights.
Freedom Of Choice Individuals can choose for themselves except when the majority of people are against their choice. The individual’s freedom of choice cannot be limited even if the majority of people oppose it.
Equality Though, in theory, everyone is treated equally, the system is such that the majority will always have an advantage over the minority of people. Every person has equal rights, and no discrimination is possible in a republic.
Focal Point In a democracy, the focus is on the will of the public. The constitution is the focal point of a republic.
Best Example Ancient Athens Rome
How are representatives chosen? The representatives are chosen by sortition or election depending on the type of democracy. In a republic, the representatives are chosen by elections.

What Is Democracy?

The classical view of democracy is that people have the right to rule, and every citizen is equal in the eyes of the law. No precise definition of democracy is available. The most common type of democracy is a representative democracy. In theory, it is better than direct democracy; however, the issue of the minority’s interest being jeopardized is not addressed. Legal equality, political freedom, and rule of law (all citizens are accountable to the same laws including lawmakers and leaders) are the defining features of a democracy. Parliamentary sovereignty (legislative body is supreme to all other government institutions) is a dominant principle in some countries that advocate democracy. Some choose to maintain judicial independence so that other branches of the government do not unduly influence judiciary systems.

Democratization and democratic backsliding are important concepts in democracy. The former refers to the transition from an authoritarian (semi or pure) regime to a democratic or semi-democratic regime. The latter refers to the decline of the democratic principles of a democratic system. Both phenomena depend on the attitudes and beliefs of the people. Anarchists have a divided opinion as to whether the majority rule is a tyrannical concept or not. Many anarchists consider only direct democracy as acceptable, while others feel that it restricts personal liberty and is in favor of consensus democracy.

Types Of Democracy

The most popular forms of democracies are as follows:

Direct Democracy

In a direct democracy, no representative is chosen to decide on policies or make amends to the law. The people may directly make laws, elect or dismiss officials, and conduct trials depending on the type of direct democracy prevalent. The popular types of this democracy are:

Participatory Democracy

Participatory, participant, or participative democracy allows citizens to individually participate in political decisions or policies that affect their lives. Here, no representatives are elected, as the people are involved directly. Participative democracy gained support because it facilitated the achievement of the people’s interests. However, critics opine that citizens cannot bear such responsibilities and consider participatory models unfeasible.

Deliberative Democracy

Deliberative democracy combines elements of supermajority and consensus. It holds that a law should be considered legitimate only after authentic deliberation, not on mere voting. Joseph M. Bessette coined the term deliberative democracy in 1980. A deliberative discussion should be informed, balanced, conscientious (participants should sincerely consider the discussion’s merits), diverse, and must be given equal consideration.

The discussion must be made public in an understandable way. Moreover, the participants have to deliberate with open minds and the decisions taken should be binding (merely arguing for the sake of arguing will not benefit anyone). Practitioners of deliberative democracy should be as neutral as possible.

Semi-Direct Democracy

In semi-direct democracies, the representatives govern, but the citizens still hold the supreme power. This type of democracy allows three forms of action:

Referendum

A popular referendum allows people to call existing legislations to vote. They have to make a petition within the specified time with the required amount of signatures (from diverse communities) to accomplish this action. Thus, the people can veto the laws they do not like.

Initiative

The public can propose constitutional reforms to the government with a Citizen-initiated referendum or Initiative. An initiative may be direct or indirect. In a direct initiative, a proposition is voted on directly, whereas, in an indirect initiative, the proposition is first presented to the legislature. The people can move for direct voting if no satisfactory steps are taken.

Recall

The public has the right to remove an elected official from office before the end of his term of office (the power of recall).

Liberal Democracy

A liberal democracy takes many forms; it may be a constitutional monarchy, a republic (this ambiguity is caused because the distinction between a republic and a constitutional monarchy is not always clear), or a semi-presidential system. However, the Cambridge School of Historical Analysis has a main thesis that says a republic is distinct from liberal democracy.

In a constitutional monarchy, also known as a democratic monarchy, the monarchs can use their powers as per the constitution – the legal framework of a country limits them. The monarchs are not the sole decision-makers; this makes the democratic monarchy different from the absolute monarchy. In some countries, the government operates in the monarch's name, while in others, the monarchs do not get personally involved in policy decisions. In short, they reign but do not rule. Semi-constitutional monarchies are similar to presidential or semi-presidential systems. Monarchies with monarchs who only play ceremonial roles are referred to as parliamentary monarchies.

Representative Democracy

In a representative democracy, government officials are elected by the people to represent them; this is different from a democratic republic as in the latter the head of the state is also elected. Some countries having a representative democracy use referendums. This democracy faces criticisms as the representatives can use their judgment/prudence instead of submitting to the will or interests of the people who they represent. The two popular types of representative democracy are as follows:

Parliamentary System

In this system, the Prime Minister can be removed by the legislature anytime through a Vote of No Confidence (typically done when the PM does not meet expectations). In countries with this system, the Prime Minister can call an election whenever he wants. Typically, an election is held when the ruling party has the public’s favor (after all, they want to get re-elected not thrown from their metamorphic throne). The concept of loyal opposition plays an essential role in this type of democracy. The opposing party opposes the ruling party without sacrificing its loyalty to the state and its principles.

Presidential System

In a presidential democracy, the public elects the president who serves as the head of the state and the government. The drawback of this type of democracy is the President and the legislature may end up locking horns. Such a move disrupts the functioning of the state. In a semi-presidential system, the government consists of a Prime Minister and a President; the powers held by these two vary according to the country.

What Is Republic?

Republic in the classical sense includes both democracy and aristocracy (hence the criticism about being ruled by the rich). In the modern sense, republics are governments without monarchs. A republic is a form of government in which the people possess power, and they exercise these powers by delegating it to their chosen (elected) representatives.

Types Of Republic

The two main types of a republic form of government are as follows:

Presidential Republic

In a presidential republic, the concept of separation of powers is applied. The President (the elected head of the state and the government) leads the executive branch. The legislature (a separate branch of the government) cannot dismiss the President except under extraordinary circumstances. The advocates of this type of republic point out the efficiency of a unitary executive and the stability offered. The criticizers harp about the possibility of the emergence of dictatorship and the deadlocks the President and the legislature may find themselves in when at odds.

Parliamentary Republic

The executive branch of the government is answerable to the legislature. Moreover, the head of the state (ceremonial position) and the head of the government (holds real power) are separate. However, in some cases, the head of the state has some ‘reserve powers’ they can use at their discretion. The extent of such reserve powers has not been defined precisely and may vary according to the country.

Other Republics In History Worth Noting

The Bolsheviks established the Socialist Republic under the Marxist-Leninist (a communist) ideology after the Russian Revolution. Communism was completely against monarchy and a huge driving force behind the republican movements of the twentieth century. A Socialist republic emphasizes the creation of a classless society (distinction will be based on education, experience, and so on but not by the class people were born in).

During the 1979 revolution in Iran, the monarchy was overthrown and the Islamic republic was born. The current meaning of republic is borrowed/adopted from western countries. Many monarchies in the Middle East were removed during the 20th century.

Main Difference Between Democracy And Republic In Points

  • The majority rules in a democracy; it does not matter whether the interests of the minority are protected or not. In a republic, though the representatives of the people are elected based on the majority of votes, the minority’s rights are protected.
  • In a democracy, the people are directly involved in decisions regarding policies. The elected representatives decide on policies and make laws on behalf of the people in a republic.
  • The monarchs can use their powers (limited by the constitution) in a constitutional monarchy – a type of liberal democracy. No monarchs are present in a country with a republic form of government.
  • The representatives of the public may be chosen through sortition in a democracy, whereas in a republic, they are chosen only through elections.
  • The abuse of the minority of the people is restricted in deliberative democracy. A written constitution protects the minority from being bullied by the majority.
  • Some consider democracy tyrannical, whereas a republic is criticized for the inefficiencies of a unitary executive.
  • Democracy restricts freedom of choice in contrast to a republic, which prevents others from restricting an individual’s choice.

Conclusion

It is impossible to provide a solution to the age-old debate about whether a democracy is better than a republic or vice versa. Each country adopts whichever form of government best suits the attitudes, beliefs, and opinions of its citizens. Moreover, democratic republics are better than either pure democracy or a republic, as it combines the strengths of both and tries to eliminate their weaknesses. That is why most countries identify themselves as democratic republics.

References

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermajority
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_democracy
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_democracy
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitutional_monarchy
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representative_democracy
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliamentary_system
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidential_system
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_powers
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marxism%E2%80%93Leninism

Category

Law


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"Difference Between Democracy and Republic." Diffzy.com, 2024. Tue. 18 Jun. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-democracy-and-republic-1259>.



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