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What is democracy?

The term ‘democracy’ derives from the Greek word, “demokratia”, which can be translated simply as ‘rule by the people’. It is used to describe a system of government that allows people to have an influence over government decisions and have access to independent sources of information. As this general definition is broad, there are various different forms of democracy, the two key types being direct democracy and representative democracy.

Direct democracy, also known as consultative democracy, typically refers to the type of democracy that was seen in Ancient Athens. This form of democracy requires the people to make the decisions themselves and to be directly consulted on government issues. Athenian democracy was direct democracy in its purest form as those who were eligible to vote could have a say in every decision that the government was faced with. However, as most modern societies are densely populated, this specific style of government is more impractical today. Therefore, one way in which direct democracy can be practiced now is through referendums. These are questions proposed to settle important political issues that require ‘yes' or 'no’ answers, for example the EU referendum on June 23rd 2016 will ask people whether they would like to leave the EU or stay in it.

Representative democracy differs from direct democracy because rather than being directly influential in government affairs, the people are indirectly involved in the decision-making process. An intermediary, in the form of a representative, is the people’s point of contact and the power to make most decisions, that influence government, is delegated to the representative. In Britain, MPs are the representatives for constituencies and they are elected by the people every five years in general elections. This gives them legitimacy, the right to exercise power, which is an important democratic principle. Rather than the people individually voting on specific issues, MPs will consider what is best for their constituents and vote accordingly on their behalf.

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Emily O.

Degree: International Relations (Masters) - St. Andrews University

Subjects offered:Government and Politics, Spanish+ 2 more

Government and Politics
Spanish
History
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Eleanor F.

Degree: Politics, Philosophy and Economics (Bachelors) - Oxford, Somerville College University

Subjects offered:Government and Politics, Physics+ 6 more

Government and Politics
Physics
History
Extended Project Qualification
English Literature
.TSA. Oxford.
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“About me: My name is Ellie, and I’m studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford. I’m really passionate about my subjects and I want to share this with you!  I have plenty of experience teaching and mot...”

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Katrina C.

Degree: Politics and International Relations (Bachelors) - LSE University

Subjects offered:Government and Politics, English Literature+ 2 more

Government and Politics
English Literature
English Language
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“About me ​I am Katrina and a student at the LSE studying Politics and International Relations. I am obviously, super interested in current affairs as well as more theoretical concepts of politics such as representive governments ect. ...”

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Gemma L.

Degree: Politics (Bachelors) - Newcastle University

Subjects offered:Government and Politics, Spanish+ 9 more

Government and Politics
Spanish
Science
Religious Studies
Maths
History
French
English Literature
English Language
Business Studies
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“ A little bit about me!  I am a second year politics student at Newcastle University. I have always been passionate about politics and love how dynamic and fast-moving the subject is! I hope that my enthusiasm will brush off onto you ...”

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