Direct and representative democracy

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  • Direct and representative democracy
    • Democracy
      • People have influence over political decision making.
      • Government are accountable to the people.
      • Free and fair elections so the government is legitimate
      • Different beliefs, political parties and associations are tolerated.
      • Free and independent media.
      • Citizens' rights are legally protected.
      • Legal limits to powers of government, established by a constitution and independent judiciary.
    • Direct democracy
      • A system where the people themselves make important political decisions. The modern form involves using referenda, which is controversial.
      • Advantages
        • Purest form of democracy, the people's voice is clearly heard.
        • Can avoid delay and deadlock within the political system.
        • Has great legitimacy.
          • Gives the government clear directive to act.
        • Each vote counts equally.
        • People more likely to vote if it will make a difference.
        • Referenda can teach people about political issues.
      • Disadvantages
        • Tyranny of the majority, where the winning majority ignores minority interests.
          • Elected representatives can mediate between majority and minority interests.
        • People may be easily swayed by short-term, emotional appeals by charismatic individuals.
        • Some issues may be too complex for the ordinary citizen to understand.
        • Not practical in a modern society.
        • Referenda can be manipulated by changing question phrasing.
        • Expensive to run.
          • Cabinet Office estimated by the 2016 EU referendum cost £141m to run.
    • representative democracy
      • A system where the people are represented by others. representatives are usually elected by can also include pressure groups and social movements.
      • Advantages
        • Representatives may have expert knowledge and experience.
        • Representatives are probably more rational and less likely to be swayed by emotional appeals.
        • Representatives are democratically accountable and should therefore behave responsibly.
        • Representatives should mediate between majority and minority interests.
      • Disadvantages
        • Elected representatives may be more interested in party politics than in the national interest.
          • In general, parties may exercise too much control over their elected members.
        • No guarantee that representatives accurately reflect the views of those they claim to represent.
        • FPTP produces a highly unrepresentative result.
          • Often more people will have voted against the winning party than for it.
        • Not all votes are counted equally in larger constituencies
    • Distinctions between the two types
      • With DD, people themselves make political decisions. With RD, decisions are made by elected representatives.
      • With DD, decisions are made by referenda whereas with RD decisions are made by government and elected assemblies.
      • With DD, the people vote on single issues. In RD, people choose between full political programmes at electiosn rather than on single issues.

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