Examples of Different Types of Democracy

, Staff Writer
Updated April 22, 2021
Hand Holding Voting Ballot
    Hand Holding Voting Ballot
    Karanik Yimpat / EyeEm / Getty Images
    Used under license

When it comes to governments, you might know there are several types out there like a democracy, totalitarian, a monarchy or a theocracy. A democracy is an example most people are familiar with, especially if you live in the U.S. Use examples to learn about the different types of democracy governments.

What Is Democracy?

You might have heard the word “democracy” thrown around on the news or by politicians. A democracy is a form of government, just like a monarchy or oligarchy. In a democracy, the power to run the government is placed in the hands of the people. However, how direct those people get to run their government is what makes different types of democratic government.

Types of Democracy

Democracy is a complicated thing. Most scholars will state there are two main types of democracy around the world, including direct and representative. However, several governments offer their own specific take on democracy, making for different democracy government constructs.

To clear up the confusion, check out examples of eight democratic governments from around the globe.


Direct Democracy

When you think of a democracy where people run everything, you are thinking of a direct democracy. For laws and government changes, people vote directly rather than having anyone represent them. Everything from fixing the roads to raising taxes requires the people's vote. If a large group thinks something is an issue, it can be brought to the government.

While direct democracies are hard to find in reality, Switzerland is close to the best example. The government of Switzerland uses popular initiatives, optional referendums and mandatory referendums to oppose amendments and demand bills. The nation also votes on all issues through popular vote.

Types of Direct Democracy

There are two schools of thought when it comes to a direct democracy.

  • A participatory democracy is one where the people use initiative and referendums to make a contribution to their government. This allows every person to make a meaningful contribution, like what you find in Switzerland.
  • Another direct democracy theory is the deliberative theory. In this theory, citizens would deliberate government policies and reforms among themselves to generate the best policies and laws for everyone.

Representative Democracy

By far the most common form of democracy across the world is representative democracy. If you live in a representative democracy, you’ll vote in the people who will represent you at the regional to the legislative and executive level. This small group of politicians are supposed to represent the needs and thoughts of the people that voted them in.

Depending on the governing body, a representative government can be broken down into different subsets of a democractic government.

Parliamentary Democracy

In a parliamentary democracy, the power is given to the legislative branch of the government through the parliament and the prime minister. These governments also have an executive branch but with less power.

The United Kingdom is a great example of a parliamentary democracy. The U.K. parliament is broken down into the House of Commons and House of Lords. These houses, along with the prime minister, work to make laws, check government spending and review the work of the government. The judicial branch is headed by a monarch.

India also uses a parliamentary democratic government. Unlike the U.K., India’s head of state is the president.


Presidential Democracy

A presidential democracy is the opposite of a parliamentary democracy. In a presidential democracy, the executive branch has the power. The people elect a president to head the government. However, the president is kept in check by the legislative branch.

The United States and Nigeria are examples of presidential democracies. The executive branch includes the president and his cabinet. Along with the judicial and legislative branch, the three branches of government work to keep checks and balances, but the president has final say.

Authoritarian Democracy

In an authoritarian democracy, some people, specifically the wealthy and elite, direct the power of the government. These regimes adopt the government models that are generally associated with a democracy, including executive and legislative branches, but the government itself is not in the hands of the people. Additionally, if it is a small group of elites who are governing, then it might be called an elite democracy.

There are not many examples of an authoritarian democracy. Many will point to Russia since it includes elections and a legislature, but the government is currently led by the Vladimir Putin regime.


Religious Democracy

This is where secular laws and the people meet to create the principles of the government. The most common example is an Islamic democracy. This is where the laws of Islam are what guide policy creation. The leaders of this democracy must also follow the teachings of Islam. However, these leaders are elected to their positions by the people.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have executive, judicial and legislative branches of government that are guided by the laws of Islam and the Qur’an. These governments also have a constitution and representatives are chosen by the people.

Exploring Democracy

Democracy is far from perfect. But, it does work to create a government that values every individual. Find out how this is different from fascism where only one dictator rules all.