Also called indirect democracy, representative democracy is a system of government where all eligible citizens vote on representatives to pass laws for them. This form of government is adopted by most Western countries and is seen as the only form of democracy that is possible in mass societies. In addition, this kind of government allows a small number of people to rule efficiently on behalf of a larger population.
Although this government type is adopted around the world, there are still some criticisms of it. To understand why there is conflicting views on representative democracy, it’s best to look at the pros and cons.
List of Pros of Representative Democracy
1. It is efficient particularly when voting on issues.
A direct democracy lets the people vote on matters – they have their say. Given that the population is really small, that method can work. However, when speaking about large populations, the idea of pulling it off successfully is too much of a hassle.
With an indirect democracy, citizens elect officials they believe can champion their cause. Put simply, the elected official is the voice of the people. And when deciding on certain issues, representatives can easily get together because they all work in one building.
2. It elects officials democratically.
Citizens get to decide who represents them in office. As such, they vote based on their opinion of who is capable of representing what they believe in. Usually, people vote in officials who they think have the training and education needed to understand what their jurisdiction needs.
List of Cons of Representative Democracy
1. Representatives might not necessarily serve their jurisdiction right.
It happens a lot in politics: promises are made in order to win the favor of citizens. However, all that changes once a person is seated in office. Or, the person nominated to represent a certain jurisdiction has different views from the population they serve.
A good example of representatives not being able to understand the needs of their jurisdiction (and hence serve them right) is having a wealthy official represent a mostly low-income segment. How can they understand the situation when they haven’t experienced something similar themselves?
2. Citizens take no part in a representative democracy.
People cannot vote for certain issues – they trust their representatives to do that for them. Although meetings can be had with certain groups, there are times when representatives do what they think is best and not what the citizens want. It even gets worse when the opinion of constituents aren’t even heard or considered.
3. Representatives can lie.
Officials running for office need to win the favor of the people in order to get elected. An obvious way to do that is to present a platform that is in the interest of the people. While it takes that much work to earn votes, it gets easy to throw away promises once seated. Politicians can be like that and it is disappointing for the citizens who voted for them because they were duped into believing that particular official had their best interests in mind.