Social studies: Democracy, characteristics and forms

Democracy is a word we often see in the newspaper, on TV and in politics. But what exactly is democracy? Democracy has existed since the Ancient Greeks. Nowadays there are different forms of democracy, such as parliamentary democracy and presidential democracy. Would you like to know what kind of democracy the Netherlands is? Or what the characteristics of a democracy are? Then read this article about the characteristics and forms of democracy!


What is democracy? Democracy has existed since the Ancient Greeks first started applying it in a limited form. The word democracy is composed of the two Greek words ,demos, (people) and ,kratein, (government). Democracy literally means ,the people rule,. In practice, a ,pure, or ,pure, democracy does not occur . Not every resident of a country can participate in policy decisions. This used to occur in small societies such as cities or tribes. At that time, important decisions were made by popular vote. Today we see a remnant of this, namely the referendum. This is a popular vote on a particular bill.

Characteristics of a democracy

As became clear earlier, direct democracy is impossible today. We now see a form of indirect, representative democracy almost everywhere. This means that the people elect their own representatives to make decisions for them. Furthermore, political power is divided among several bodies and the three powers are separated via the trias politica. The different organs thus control each other. A democracy is usually a constitutional state, in which every citizen has rights, freedoms, but also obligations.

Characteristics of a democracy

  • Individual freedom
  • Basic political rights
  • Police and defense have limited powers
  • Independent judiciary
  • Press freedom
  • Freedom of speech


Parliamentary and presidential system of democracy

Countries with a representative democracy do not necessarily have to have the same form of democracy. We can make a distinction between the parliamentary system and the presidential system.

Parliamentary system

In the parliamentary system of democracy, the elected parliament functions as the highest body of power in the country. A cabinet is formed based on the composition of parliament. This cabinet is formed of ministers and state secretaries. The cabinet is obliged to be accountable to parliament, and therefore to the people. Countries with a parliamentary system usually have an unelected head of state whose power is limited in the constitution. The Netherlands is a good example of this, as we are a constitutional monarchy.

Presidential system

In the presidential system, the power of the head of state is considerably greater. The people of a presidential democracy elect not only a parliament but also the president. In some countries this president has little power, such as in Germany, but in other countries this power is much greater. A good example of this is America. The president heads the government, but also heads the executive branch. Many countries have limited a president’s so-called right to rescind. Otherwise the p resident could gain too much power. If you have any questions, comments or comments, please leave a comment at the bottom of the page!