Democracy: Definition, Characteristics, and Types

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Democracy is a system that is well known by all levels of society, especially in developing countries. Democracy can be interpreted as a form of government where all citizens have the same rights to make decisions for the benefit of their government which aims to have a better life.

A. Definition of Democracy

Democracy is derived from the Greek words, namely “Demos”, and “Kratos”. Demos has the meaning of the people or audience, while Kratos has the meaning of government. There are several definitions of democracy according to experts, as follows:

  1. C.F. Strong defines democracy as a system of government in which the majority of the adult population participates in politics on the basis of a representative system.
  2. Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as a system of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
  3. Aristotle defines democracy as the freedom of every citizen.
  4. Harris Soche defines democracy as a form of people’s government. In other words, the people are the holders of power in the government who have the right to regulate, defend, and protect themselves from coercion from their representatives.

Referring to the definition of democracy that has been described, the concept of democracy has the same meaning as vox populi, vox dei (voice of the people, voice of God).

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B. Characteristics of Democracy

The characteristics that describe a government based on a democratic system are reflected in the following:

  • In running the government, the government is based on the people’s will and interests.
  • The government applies constitutional characteristics related to the interests, will or power of the people written in the constitution and laws of the country.
  • The government applies the context of representation, the characteristics of democracy related to people’s sovereignty that will be represented by several people who have been elected by the people themselves.
  • The characteristics of democracy have to do with general elections, which are a political activity carried out to choose parties in government.
  • Democracy in a party characteristic as a medium or a means to be part of implementing a democratic system.
  • Democracy in terms of power is the division and separation of power.
  • Democracy in the nature of responsibility is the responsibility of parties who have been elected to participate in the implementation of a democratic system.

Furthermore, based on the International Conference of fists, Bangkok, 1965, at least a democratic country must have the following those characteristics:

  1. Supremacy of Law (Law above all things)
  2. Equality Before the Law
  3. Constitutional Guarantee of Human Rights
  4. Impartial Tribunal
  5. Civic Education 

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C. Types of Democracy

Based on the view of Encik Muhammad Fauzan in his book entitled “Hukum Tata Negara Indonesia”, democracy is divided into two types, i.e. direct democracy and indirect or representative democracy. Direct democracy is the notion of democracy that involves its citizens in deliberation to determine public policies and laws. Indirect democracy is the notion of democracy implemented through a representative system usually carried out through general elections.

Types of democracy can also be distinguished based on the system. There are at least 3 (three) types of democracy based on the system i.e., parliamentary democracy, presidential democracy, and mixed democracy.

  1. Parliamentary Democracy
    Parliamentary democracy is the concept of government in a country that gives the parliament the authority to carry out state tasks. Parliament has a fundamental and strong role to appoint a civil minister. In fact, parliament has the legitimacy to overthrow the government in a country. Miriam Budiardo in his book entitled “Basics of Political Science” describes two patterns in parliamentary democracy i.e., the executive (government) and legislative bodies (parliament) which are dependent on each other. 
  2. Presidential Democracy
    Presidential democracy is a system of government in which the head of government is held by the president and has no responsibility to the parliament (the legislature). Meanwhile, the Minister is responsible to the president because the president has the position as both head of state and head of government. According to Rod Hagus, presidential democracy has 3 (three) main elements, i.e., (1) the president is elected by the people and can appoint government officials, (2) the president has a fixed term of office, and (3) there is no overlapping status between the executive and legislative bodies.
  3. Mixed Democracy
    Mixed democracy is a system of government that draws the best from presidential and parliamentary systems of government. Based on the view of I Made Pasek Diantha, there are at least 3 (three) main characteristics of mixed democracy, among others:

    • Ministers are elected by Parliament;
    • The length of the executive’s term of office is determined with certainty in the constitution
    • Ministers are not responsible either to parliament or to the president.


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