Analysis of Direct and Indirect Democracy


Before proceeding further, it is imperative to discuss what a democracy is. Democracy means a form of government in which, in contradistinction monarchies and aristocracies, the people rule. Democracy entails a political community in which there is some form of political equality among the people.[1]  Democracy can be termed as government which depends on the will of the people. The supreme authority lies with the will of the people in a direct or indirect way. The response of the citizens in a democracy constitutes the foundation of the government. Citizens have a right in the decision making process in such a system.

Forms of Democracy

As per the government setup, there are two types of democracy-

  1. Direct Democracy
  2. Indirect Democracy

Direct Democracy

Direct democracy is also referred to by the name of pure democracy. Direct democracy refers to a situation in which people are directly involved in the electoral process, and they exercise their power directly in the election. In the present system, power is not delegated to another representative or person in the process.

Indirect Democracy

Indirect democracy is also known by the name of representative democracy. Indirect democracy takes a different route; in the present system power is delegated to the representatives, in such a system people play an indirect role in the electoral process. In this process people elect representatives, who then go on to vote on different issues concerning public interest. It is specifically more applicable to India. It is more suitable for those countries which have a very high population. In a largely populated country it isn’t feasible to involve everyone in the decision making process hence for such countries, indirect democracy is more suitable. Indirect Democracy also has its form’s like-

  1. Presidential Form
  2. Parliamentary or Cabinet Form
  3. Unitary Form
  4. Federal Form
  5. Mixed Form

Difference between Direct & Indirect Democracy

Basis for ComparisonDirect DemocracyIndirect Democracy
PoliciesGovernment policies are directly dealt & decided by the people themselves.People play an indirect role & elect their representatives to take decisions regarding government policies.
LegislatureEvery person is involved in the legislative process.Representatives of the majority form government & consequently become part of the legislature.
SuitableIt is suitable for countries having small populations Eg. Switzerland is the only country in the world practicing direct democracy.It is suitable for countries having large populations Eg. India, United States of America.
Appointment of Head of the  StateThe head of the state is directly elected by the citizens.The head of the state is indirectly elected by the citizens.
ParticipationCitizens have a direct participation in direct democracy.Citizens have an indirect participation in indirect democracy.

Pro’s of Direct Democracy

1. Sovereignty:

It provides people the right to decide the issues of fundamental importance authoritatively and directly.

2. Promotes participation:

There is a meaningful participation by the citizens in the process of decisions concerning public interests and therefore it has an effect of motivating citizens to come out in larger numbers to participate. Direct participation helps citizens to get involved & have a meaningful role in public life.

3. Low Manipulation:

Direct democracy procedures are rarely at peril of manipulation.  Direct democracy has features of supporting both a constructive organization & common interest of civil society.

4. Reduced Expenses:

Direct democracy is not covered by the media coverage. Direct democracy is not expensive and it may help to avoid huge expenses.

5. Solving Social Conflicts:

Direct democracy procedures are more effective in solving social conflicts.

Cons of Direct Democracy

1. Citizens Competence:

In a direct democracy, citizens require high-level knowledge of issues that may be labyrinthine in nature. There exists a possibility that a certain person doesn’t have much knowledge to make informed decisions & consequently that can lead to a wrong & manipulated decision.

2. Public Participation:

The total population of cantons of Switzerland is 40,000 people as of December 2017. When 6,000 people hold their parliamentary debate and issue votes, thus the 15% participation rate was achieved.[2] But in case participation is not high then the policy would not be implemented to its benefit for the nation.

3. Unstable Government:

The views of each person would be difficult to consider in the formation of any law. Hence, the opposing opinions of people will lead to increasing conflict of interest and at last will form an unstable government with poor administration.

4. Decrease in Public Participation:

If the participating people arrive at a conclusion that their views are not given due importance that would hamper public participation and thus it would lead to loss of public participation.

5. Ill Informed Voters:

In countries with low population like- Switzerland, the voters should be well informed about the contemporary issues and its consequent impact on the society, it is pivotal since it would affect the country at large. The minorities from the population should be attributed great importance for the well being & development of the country.

Pros of Indirect Democracy

1. Rule of the people:

Indirect democracy enables the government to act on what the majority people want, instead of the government imposing their own views, they take into consideration the views of people before acting on any policy.

2. Liberty to take any stand:

Indirect Democracy enables the representatives to make their stand on any topic or issue though the votes are in minority. 

3. Check & Balance:

In Indirect democracy there is a system of checks and balances of each branch of government so that it is made sure that no branch has excessive power over any other branch.

4. Political Competition:

In indirect democracy, political parties want to be in power so that they would be represented in the parliament, the ruling party has the highest power in indirect democracy. High political competition ensures the best government to represent people.

5. Transparency in Government:

There is generally a high level of transparency in the working of the government in indirect democracy.

Cons of Indirect Democracy

1. Deception:

Government can deceive people in indirect democracy, since the power to elect their representative is only till the voting process and not beyond that. Once the representatives are elected, they are at their free will to follow their own agendas and conduct the government the way they want.

2. Costly: 

Indirect democracy is a costly form of government where Crores are spent by the candidates in their political marketing to entice people and lure them to cast their votes to them during elections.

3. Loss of Public Participation:

Indirect democracy leads to loss of participation, once the people discover that the candidate who is going to participate is not having any public interests then the people are left abject & are discouraged to participate in the voting process.


Democracy is often recognised as the best government set up, its aim should be For the People, By the People and Of the People. It gives the people the opportunity to participate either directly or indirectly and voice their opinion either directly or through a representative. Direct democracy enables the people from the country to have a higher control over the legislative power & policies matter of the government however this kind of democracy is only suitable for those countries where the population is not high and most of the people are informed to give their rational decisions.  In the case of an indirect democracy, the citizen of the country elects their representative who will perform the task of decision making.

In direct form of democracy, full power is given to the people whereas in the indirect form the people have full authority to elect their representatives to perform the task of decision making on their behalf. Thus, indirect democracy is much preferable in the 21st century and there are many countries across the globe like India, U.S.A etc. practicing the form of indirect democracy and functioning effectively with it, on the other hand we have countries like Switzerland where the population is less and literate and hence that system is working well for them. It can be inferred from the above that each system has its set of its pros and cons, therefore for any country to follow any type of system, it should weigh the pros and Cons of each system so that it is able to meet the needs of the people of that nation in a more efficient manner. E.g for Switzerland, indirect democracy is more suitable for them owing to their small and literate population; however the same might not be appropriate or feasible for India owing to its large illiterate population. Therefore each country should follow that form of democracy that is more appropriate for their political setup.

Questions covered by the Article-

1. What is a democracy and its types?

2. Forms of Indirect democracy?

3. Pros and cons of direct democracy.

4. Pros and cons of indirect democracy.

5. Difference between direct and indirect democracy.



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