What are the minimum requirements for a system to be called democratic?

  • I think the title is very clear, but I'll complete the question below:

    1. What are the minimum requirements needed for a system to be called democratic?

    2. Is holding elections every n years enough, or there are deeper requirements?

    In other words, what criteria must a system of government meet before it can be called democratic?

    _Minimum_ requirements? Any nation able to make the claim that their system reflects the will of the people (the demos). Characteristics we assume inherent to a democracy, such a formal voting (information propagation) and revocation of mandate (iterative refinement) are more than the _minimum_ requirements of a democracy in its broadest fundamental sense.

  • user4012

    user4012 Correct answer

    9 years ago

    "Democratic" is a very imprecise label. For example, USSR held elections every N years, and called itself a democracy, despite "the people" having virtually no power.

    Wikipedia defines Democracy as:

    a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows eligible citizens to participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws.

    Note two things here:

    1. In reality, "Democracy" as defined here is an ideal that Simply Does Not Exist. Nobody ever has "equal say", for a variety of reasons. Like anything else, in reality there's a continuum, which, since we are dealing with humans, is messy and hard to pin down.

    2. The official definition is about an idea, not an implementation. Thus, elections, while one way of implementing democracy-aimed ideas, are not a requirement at all (for example, you could simply make every citizen vote on every political decision directly). Elections are about representative Democracy.

    Also note the word "eligible" and that who is eligible has varied greatly throughout history.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM